“I’m going home soon,” she said to me as I held her small delicate hand, whose sun spots and traces of visits from Mr. Arthur Itis (as she used to say) served as clear evidences of a long full life. I had just finished telling her that we were all going to be boarding planes headed for our various homes, talking incessantly without much reason so that she wouldn’t have to. Her response was said with an unmistaken hope, almost as if she was saying it out loud just so that it would come true. As if she had been thinking it over for a while and wanted to share it with us. For a moment I wondered if she really thought that she was going to be going ‘home’ to Florida as her mind had been ‘going’ for quite some time. That moment quickly passed, however, and I realized that she was not making a statement from the mind of a woman plagued with Alzheimer’s. No, she was sharing with us a very cognitive thought that provided everyone in the room a peace so bittersweet. “Yes you are Grandma,” I told her as I gently squeezed that sun spotted, Arthur Itis hand. “You are, and it’s going to be wonderful.”
My sweet grandmother passed away last Thursday morning, early in the day at a time when no one really knows. No one except the One that welcomed her home. This wasn’t exactly my plan for my second blog post but you know, it is a good reminder of why I like photography. Because it tells a story. It freezes moments in time. It captures life.
As I make that statement, however, and as I inevitably ponder the antithesis of life, I am struck by the irony of that claim. Over the past year, witnessing the death of two grandparents, the realization that life cannot truly be ‘captured’ has become increasingly more palpable. While I still love the ‘capturing’ aspect of photography, if I were to go beyond the sentiment of that statement in an attempt of making a more theological and philosophical argument, I would submit that the capturing of life, or holding onto it I should say, is actually folly. The truth, as unwelcome as it is, remains that the brevity of life is indeed a reality.
Wow, what a depressing assertion right? Wrong. The more I have sought to make sense of the brevity of life and the way its implications leave me stumbling for solid ground, the more I have gained a vigorous joy and a firm foundation. You see, when we set our sights and our hope in this broken world, then we will be staggeringly disappointed. Not even the best argument can negate this fact. Our existence in this world is short. Reasoning through this, I am reminded of something that allows the sorrow to turn to joy. Indeed, we are made for another world. As Carrie Underwood sweetly sings, “This is my temporary home,” and as my grandmother so adequately stated in her final days, “I’m going home.”
So what do we do with this truth? Well, first I submit that we rejoice in our salvation if we have come to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ! Praise the Lord that this is not the end but we have the promise of eternity in the indescribable beauty and peace of heaven. If you have not come to know the saving grace of Christ, I would humbly plead that you consider that which I have been discussing, the brevity of life and that death comes to all. May your search bring you only to the foot of the cross. Second, it seems that God would say to us that we not put our hope in this world but in the hope of eternity. As my sister, Emily (the philosopher and writer of the family) so eloquently put, “We must be like Abraham, and by faith, look “forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” Hebrews 11:10 The pain of this world, teaches us to distrust it and admit that we are “aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own”….for we are “longing for a better country—a heavenly one” Hebrews 11:13-16.” As Paul states in Colossians 3:1-3, “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Let us remember and rejoice that our days are short because we were made for another world and let us fix our eyes upon it.
As I celebrate the life of Marilyn Polumbo and grieve the loss of her earthly presence, I am grateful that ‘capturing’ life is not only folly, but that real life begins upon leaving this broken world and returning home.
(the images are a little poor quality cause they are from my phone)