Friday, June 9

Except for the Memory

That's what I'd planned to call the little story I told on Wednesday. It's a line from Jim Croce's song Time in a Bottle, but I wasn't sure of the exact words, and I needed to look them up, so I was composing the post under the working title Dust to Dust. Then when it came time to publish, I forgot to change the title. I noticed my mistake immediately--and a few other errors in the post, too--but by then Blogger was on the blitz, so the title remained Dust to Dust for a couple of hours. By the time it could be changed, the post had already been linked under that name, and since Blogger permalinks are title driven, it was too late to change things.

Indulge me though, and let me tell you why I wanted the other title. The phrase "dust to dust" points to our mortality, and the story is about mortality--about the brevity of life. But it's about something much more than that, although we do indeed need to be reminded constantly of our mortality. Nope, the real story is about the significance--the meaning--of even the shortest life.

The lines from Time in a Bottle are these:
The box would be empty
Except for the memory
In this case, the box wasn't even there--only pieces of it--but the woman had known and loved that little one, and he had significance to her, even though all that remained of him materially at the time of the story were a few pieces of the box he'd been buried in. She had carried him and held him, and she knew and she loved and she remembered.

And that little one has significance to several other people, too. Judy, in the comments, was reminded of her Uncle Clifford who died as an infant, and I'm betting that this baby's nieces and nephews know of him, too. But beyond his own relatives, this baby's life has significance to Steve, the one who moved him, and to the people Steve told his story to--my own husband being one of them. I heard my husband tell this story many times, to0, so that all I had to say to my children was that I'd posted Steve's story about the baby and they knew exactly what I meant. That baby's life has meaning to my children, who have only the tiniest thread of connection to him, and are removed from his life by at least eighty years, but in some fleeting way, they know that baby through the story.

Of course, what meaning he has to us is almost nothing compared to the meaning he had to his very own mother. And standing behind his mother's knowing and loving, is God himself, who knitted that baby together in his mother's womb, and who knew and valued him when he was "unformed substance," when "the days that were formed for" him--and there weren't many of them--were not yet.

Even without the significance given to a life through a mother's memory and love, or through little stories that move us--which, while they'll certainly last longer than any material evidence of that life, will all die out eventually--every life has significance because God wrote and God formed and God knitted. And God knew, and God knows, and God remembers.

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there were none of them.
(Psalm 139:13-16 ESV)