Photo by Sandy Ballard

Photo by Sandy Ballard

Last week there was a memorial service for a well-loved parishioner at Tom’s church.  It was the third one since we’ve been here, the second for someone whom we had grown to know and love.  We did not have the pleasure of meeting the first woman, who had previously been a member at St. Raphael’s but moved from Crossville before we arrived; her friends and family that remained are cherished in our church family.  

In all three services it was wonderful to hear the stories that folks shared, to learn something new of someone whom we have only known in one dimension.  How Geri had been a camp counselor in college, touching lives and making people feel valued throughout the rest of her life.  How Jim prized education and valued his students, and how much they respected him.  How Dan loved and served his country, his community, and saw a “wild beast” housecat.

These tales were touching and heartwarming; these are the stories which The Abuelita Project encourages us to record, to share with our loved ones now, and after we’re gone to avoid any cacophony of crickets at our own memorial services.

The unfortunate reality is that death is no respecter of age.  When we lived in Carlsbad it seemed there was a disproportionate number of young men dying.  The majority seemed to be oilfield workers involved in motor vehicle accidents due to exhausted drivers and dangerous roads, although there is always the potential of dying when you work a rig, and we knew of a few who died on the job.  Every day that my boys came home safely from their jobs in the patch was a day to give extra thanks to Heavenly Father.  Other youths died in wrecks due to speed or impaired driving; some were taken tragically through violence.  

How many stories are lost when our youth are ripped from this realm prematurely?  I know my kids had a few tales to share about their shenanigans as children and teens that they guarded carefully until they were adults, when I couldn’t ground them!  The stories we should record include these youthful forays when they occur, and not just our aged memories of them.  Years ago, people kept hand-written diaries to safeguard the events and emotions of our lives as we matured.  It’s a lovely habit to encourage, and if you were forward-thinking enough to do this, your project is halfway done already.  You’ve planted roots that will branch out into memories and memoirs.

Then there are the stories we should be making today.  I recently learned that a lovely young man back home in Carlsbad, just turned 24 years of age, had passed away unexpectedly.  This was the second time since we moved here that we received news of a beautiful hometown boy who died suddenly.  I didn’t know Malachi, but I know how amazing his mother is.  I didn’t know Josh’s family, but I know how Josh touched my life.  I noticed one thing in common for both of these men according to the posts on their Facebook pages; they had so many friends!  However, too many were expressing their REGRET for not having kept in touch.  

Young people tend to think they are ten feet tall and bulletproof (my boy, who is 25, learned last year that he is NOT).  They feel that there will always be time to catch up with their friends, to call or write or text them later – right now they’re too busy with life to be concerned with death.  Yet, these busy young people have stories that need to be recorded.  

I think that ALL of us, young and old alike, get caught up in the minutiae of daily living and do not always take the time to send a note or drop by or call the people who matter to us.  Instead of harboring regret, reach out to someone – make a memory, share a story, say “I love you” – we can’t go back and make up these missed opportunities.  That’s one of the things I like about social media; you can stay in close touch even when life keeps you apart, whether you’re in school or retired, we have a means to connect with one another instantaneously.  So, reach out, share your stories, glean stories from others, and make memories together.  

The Abuelita Project:  it’s not just for old folks anymore.