My dad, when he was young.
I stand with bated breath as my siblings and I cluster around an old CD boombox I’ve scrounged out of the closet. What we’re about to hear lasts only 5 minutes and 44 seconds, but it is priceless. It’s a recording off a black, 78 rpm record that was made by my father at age 26 while he was in seminary, before he met my mother.
Because my father died three years ago he can’t give us any clue as to what we are about to hear, and we can’t begin to guess.
Yesterday I went shopping at a favorite place with various booths of used items, called Feather Your Nest. I’d barely walked in the front door when I found my treasure—a small photo album telling such a beautiful story that merely flipping through it I knew I had to have it.
Just suppose that seventy-five years from now a stranger takes home a photo album of a season in your life, what story would it tell about you? Of course our photos would reflect what we were living through at the time but I do believe that the real you shows through whatever time of life you’re in.
This collection of pictures in my album is from sometime around the nineteen-forties, carefully chronicling the story of a woman attending Marysville College in Tennessee (I deduced this from the sticker in the front of the album, call me Sherlock). It covers everything from horseback riding to playing in the snow to dancing around a Maypole to her man putting a ring on her finger.
Do you ever feel like you’re invisible? Do you wonder what kind of mark you’ll leave on the world after you’re gone? I can say from experience that you never know what little things you’ll leave behind that open a window into your story. The five best friends in my photo album do everything together as they joyfully embrace their lives. I like to think that they kept up the friendship throughout their lives.
I push “play” on the CD player and we hear my father’s voice from sixty-five years ago begin talking. “Today is Friday, September the fifteenth, 1950. My name is Daniel Robert Cobb. …” Our greatest surprise is his strong southern accent as he proceeds to tell a fable, recite some limericks, and then read a passage about dialects and our “mother tongue.” After listening with rapt puzzlement we conclude that this must be an exercise in dictation from a class where he’s learning to speak as a preacher. When it’s over, as we stand in silent awe, my sister points out that you can hear his destiny to the world in his voice, and she’s right. After marrying my mother they spent 36 years as missionaries in Thailand.
After my husband died, my son Jeremy took Terry’s laptop and cell phone home to retrieve business information. Looking through them he found recordings of Terry’s teachings, his writings, and some thoughts he had recorded on his phone while apparently walking on the treadmill. It brought about a spiritual awakening and a deeper God-walk for my son and his wife, just by what they found on Terry’s laptop and phone after he was gone.
We are always telling a story, wherever we are and whatever we’re doing. Sometimes this story is recorded and other times the story is only told in the moment as we live it. However, you never know when a moment in that story will be saved and who, in the future, will find it.
While we like to think that after we’re gone we’ll leave something valuable behind, it’s easy to get discouraged and feel like once we die that’s the end of our influence on earth, but you never know!
We think people aren’t watching, but if, after you’re gone, a stranger finds your photo album, what story will it tell?