Sunday, April 02, 2017

The Cedar Chest

In a little less than two months, I'm having some major renovations to the apartment which has been my abode for nineteen years, longer than anywhere I've ever lived. Since the carpets will be replaced as well as the flooring in the bathroom and kitchen all at the same time, I am faced with some reorganization efforts to make that possible. In preparation, I've already begun the process of condensing and throwing stuff away. I’m no pack rat but I also have kept things well past the time they needed to be discarded. This morning, I made my second foray into my good sized closet to try and make some inroads. It hurt but I tossed a box of history notebooks and research papers which I haven’t glanced at since college. As I no longer teach social science classes, the possibility of some long distant nostalgia isn’t a compelling reason to take up needed space. And so with a bunch of years old Christmas cards, my academia resides in a Hefty trash bag in the complex dumpster. It's just chapter one- the cleaning story is only beginning to be written.

Actually, the first place I started wasn't the closet; it was the cedar chest pictured above. It's been in our family about sixty-five years. My Uncle Bill made it for my mom when he was a teenager and I never can recall life without it. When our parents died, it's the one thing I really wanted to inherit. Not sure if this is simply wishful thinking but I when I open it up, I swear I can smell the cedar! This heirloom has been in my possession for close to seven years now. I store my ties, of which there are roughly 300, in it but as I emptied the chest, I came up with some other items. There was a board game we had when I was a boy and some childhood photos of Mom along with her gardening hat. I uncovered Dad’s PhD hood and headgear from his commencement gown. (When we first opened the chest after their passing, Mom’s wedding gown was in there as well but I’m not sure who ended up with it.) Needless to say, there were some family moments in my heart as I emptied the wooden box of its past.

Remember those Capital One ads with the catch line, "What's in your wallet?" The implication was that if their credit card was missing, you were lacking the right credentials in your financial identity. But I like that concept when it comes to the cedar chest of our lives. We all have one whether we possess one made out of earth and wood or not. There is a place  in all of our hearts where we store the things that matter to us, good or bad. Remember what was said about the mother of Jesus in Luke 2:19?
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

There's no evidence Mary placed any mementos of her children in any sort of wooden structure even though she was married to a carpenter! I'm pretty sure my mom likewise put the important things to her in her cedar chest. That's not a new concept. God instructed Moses to put several items into the Ark of the Covenant: the stone tablet carved with the Ten Commandments, the staff of Aaron, and a jar of manna from the wilderness wanderings. These were artifacts of not just sentimental and historical value but priceless symbols connecting the people of Israel to their God and Father. The ark was housed in the tabernacle and then the temple Solomon built in Jerusalem. It was part of the Israelites' heritage; it tied them to the past and to each other. But it disappeared and unless we believe that first Indiana Jones' movie, it's nowhere to be found. (Revelation 11:19 places the Ark in heaven but I'm no scholar so I won't hazard a guess it that is literal or figurative!) Well, I hope my cedar chest doesn't get lost in the dust bin of history. I'm not sure who will get it after I'm gone. It doesn't really matter. What is in there now as well as what was stored in the years before I was born resonate with only a few and they share my DNA or share DNA with people who share my DNA. The precious riches of a family rarely have value to the non-related. Some things matter just because they matter. And you can't put that in your wallet. 

Applicable poem of the day:
an old photograph uncovered from a cedar chest
peppered with dust and frayed at its edge
show its subjects smile with quiet pride
asking not to be pitied that their time is spent

all of this family
elder and infant
bride and groom
are long since departed

fingerprints shimmer on its surface
traces of the hands that held it
laughing, crying, and remembering
and I add mine
 -Greg Easley

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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