Dear Katie, Claire and Andy,
At the beginning of his 1966 novel, “The Gates of the Forest,” Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Weisel tells a simple, ancient Jewish parable. At its conclusion, Weisel gently declares “God created man because he loves stories.” I believe that too, kids. Our family has wonderful stories.
In mid-June, we gathered over the Father’s Day weekend in Manzanita, on the Oregon coast. Father’s Day was a bonus. As you well remember, we were together to celebrate the 50 years that Grandma and I have been married.
On Saturday, our actual anniversary, we enjoyed sourdough waffles for breakfast. Your dad used sourdough our family has used since 1973, and its history goes back to the Alaska Gold Rush Days in the 1890s.
While we ate, we began sharing stories of the wedding. Pictures, using wedding reception napkins Grandma has saved, your questions answered, even watching an 8-minute movie of the reception (shot on 8mm film but now on a DVD) – all made us smile.
Later that morning, we went up to Cannon Beach for their 53rd Annual Sandcastle-Building contest. We walked and walked and walked up the sandy Oregon beach toward Haystack Rock and beyond to the contest.
The tide was going out. Or was it going in? I was never sure; but we regularly saw the waves wash away the sand-scratchings unknown people had impressed on the sand. I watched you explore the rocks and sea-life near the base of Haystack Rock, so thankful for your innate curiosities.
We made another great memory on Sunday at Nehalem Bay State Park, just south of Manzanita. Your dad got a skim board and kite in Manzanita, and we headed to the great sand beaches again. The wind was up, so the kite went high.
The tide was again going out (or in?), so the water’s edge was perfect for learning to use the skim board. It isn’t easy, is it? Still, our family time was filled with joy, laughter, relaxation – a time that adds to our memories, our stories, our family health.
Those memories, stories and growing our family’s closeness were again made on a beach where the tide washed out stick-drawn figures, words, pictures. But our memories, stories and family bonds are tide-proof. The ocean’s incredible power is outrageous. But it doesn’t have enough power to wash away the wide range of human experiences that make us who we are.
The tide’s power does have mystical ways to help us embrace our memories in ways that heal us or renew us. But the tide never washes away our memories.
It may bring new, deeper perspective to those memories, those stories, but they remain in our minds and hearts. Changed a bit perhaps, but they’re still ours.
One of the favorite songs in our congregation is “Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore.” I don’t remember if we’ve sung it when you all have attended worship with Grandma and me. It is a musical reminder of the importance of the Sea of Galilee in the ministry of Jesus.
It is a significant part of the historical Christian story, so I’m glad we have a beautiful song (also with Spanish lyrics even) to remind us. Stories remind us of those life-experiences that have great meaning for us, even for our community and world.
Stories shared again and again must make God smile, even laugh and cry – depending on the stories. I believe God created us to love us, and to hear our stories.
The Rev. Paul Graves, a Sandpoint resident and retired United Methodist minister, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.