No one remembers the former generations,
and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow them.
Ecclesiastes 1:11 (NIV)
How much do I know about previous generations of my family?
As the unofficial family historian, I probably know more than most. Nevertheless, it’s relatively little considering the 70-90 years each of my great-grandparents lived on this earth. If I go back one more generation than that it’s really just names, dates, and facts preserved on government records.
Interestingly enough, there are virtually no tangible things left from that generation that have any real value in today’s world. I find it fascinating that the only tangible things left are bibles. I have a handful of bibles belonging to various ancestors that family members have given me over the years.
- Bibles are the only tangible things to survive from previous generations.
- Current generations seem happy to dispossess them and give them to me.
There are spiritual lessons to be mined there. I’m taking note of that for more excavation.
Today, this chapter-a-day journey begins trekking through the ancient wisdom of Ecclesiastes. In the alternate-reality that I seem to be living in these past few years, I figure a little ancient wisdom might provide me something more lasting than the contemporary cycle of news and trends which ebbs and flows more quickly than I can keep up. And really, if something’s value as news can only hold five-minutes of attention then what’s the point?
And that is just the point of the sage who authored Ecclesiastes. When I was young I kept getting stuck thinking that the he was waxing existential pessimism. The further I’ve gotten on this road of Life, however, the more I’ve come to understand that the sage is inviting me to consider what is valuable.
There is only one of my great-grandparents who had what I would consider significant impact on subsequent generations. I’ve blogged about her many times before. My maternal great-grandmother, Grandma Daisy, was a matriarch honored and revered by her children and grandchildren. I have heard about her my entire life, and the impact she had on her family, my family.
A few years ago I was going through a box of ephemera that my mom had kept. In it I found Grandma Daisy’s handwritten will, subsequently transcribed and typed by her daughter. “My material things are so small,” she wrote to her children. She specified that she was basically giving each child the things they’d given her. Here’s the comprehensive list of the tangible things she left behind for her children:
A picture of a feathered bird which hung on the wall
Dining table and chairs
Wall plaque with verse about “trees”
White blanket with pink flowers
I read through this list of items in the quiet and pondered their value. I doubt any of them still exist, except the photographs. Their material existence lasted but a breath or two past her own final aspiration.
Then, I find myself recalling distinct memories I have of multiple family members sharing stories over the years about this woman. There were usually tears as they talked about the impact that her faith, hope, and love had on their lives.
So what is it that has real value?
I hear Jesus ask His followers: “What do you truly treasure, and where is it stored?”
One of the things I treasure is Grandma Daisy’s Bible that is staring at me from where I write these words.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.