This blog post might end up being pretty short. That's mostly because I've been thinking to myself "I will NOT be controversial this week, I will NOT be controversial this week, I will NOT be controversial this week!" But uncontroversial can be boring, and boring doesn't always make for a very enjoyable blog. Let's see if I have anything meaningful, and non-controversial to say-- I think I do.
I got an e-mail on Monday from my mom. It was forwarded on from one of our family friends who lived across the street from us when I was very young, and it contained an obituary. Our former next door neighbor, a man who I called "Grandpap Sandy" had passed away.
It had been years since I had seen him, so his death didn't really feel like loss to me, at least not in the way that most people associate loss with death. No, I had already "lost" him just through various circumstances in life... my family moving, too many years passing, and the fact that, according to the things written in his obituary, I had never really "known" him to begin with. But I knew him as my Grandpap Sandy, and that's how I'll remember him, and I can live with that.
My fondest memories of him, and his wife "Grandma Ruth," involved what I always refer to as "the spot" at "the fence" where my parents would always talk to them. They had a pretty extensive garden set up, especially for that part of Northern New Jersey, which despite its epithet as the "Garden State," has more houses than trees I think. Grandpap Sandy and Grandma Ruth would always send over bags and bags of eggplant, which I didn't like, but I guess my parents did, or at least accepted. They were a weird and wacky couple who had one of those 90's answering machine raps, and a radio that was shaped like a Tropicana Orange sitting on their kitchen table. Their generosity was evident, as well, as I have the first 14 or so Hess Trucks of my life because of them (batteries came with the Christmas present). I'm fairly certain I still have BOXES of animal crackers left in my parents pantry from them as well.
I can live with those memories, and look back fondly at that time with those people, but when I think about how I proceed from here, I'm never quite sure what I want. It's funny that my mom got the obituary from who she did-- her son's was one of the first deaths that I had experienced, when I was 7. To this day, I attribute the fact that I refuse to leave friends on bad terms to his death... not because we were on bad terms when he died, but because I learned at a very early age how fragile life can truly be. I wish I had time to truly know and keep in touch with everyone I've come across in life... I'm sure there are literally hundreds of thousands of stories, smiles, and tears that could be shared, but it's so easy to get swept up in the "business" of life. Just yesterday, I caught up with a woman who was a camp counselor for me in middle school. Since then, three kids have shown up in her family photos on Facebook! I think I remember the first one-- but three?!
It comes back to my concept of "investing" in people's lives. Depending on how much effort one puts in, that's about the return you should expect-- and I don't think it qualifies as a friendship if you don't expect some return. I can't return the investment that Grandpap Sandy made to my life anymore, at least not to him. Another name that pops up is Jesus Christ. How can I return the investment He made in my life? I think the answer for both of those men is the same-- pay it forward (Literally, perform the action of paying it forward... don't go out and buy the movie with Haley Joel Osment and give it to people). Matthew 25:40 reads: “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’"
So I'll pay it forward... but I don't want to forget the people who are still around me today, the investments, or the returns. Let's make the most of having the people who are still in our lives. In chapter 4 of his letter, James writes "You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." We might not have tomorrow to do that, to rectify relationships, or to have the option of telling people how much they mean to us. Similarly, we might not have the ability to give the same to God, to glorify Him. If I can implore you to do anything... don't wait.