Saturday, May 26, 2007

Forgotten Lives

I love books. I love reading them, collecting them, browsing for them and looking through stacks of them at secondhand stores. I found myself at such an establishment yesterday afternoon on the way home from work. I was searching for a hymnal or two and maybe some old sheet music or songbooks to expand my music collection for the piano.

This old store has one row of books and to see them you have have to reach overhead and turn on a dim light. There is minimal air conditioning and the air in this aisle smells of dust and slowly decaying paper. The books are loosely organized by topic, but I still feel compelled to search each shelf just in case a treasure was overlooked and filed in the wrong place.

I must have spent an entire hour poring over one section in hopes of finding what I was looking for. What I found was what I always find when I am looking through old books. Lives. The lives of the people who owned the books before they ended up on a dusty shelf in an antique store. Most of the books have inscriptions and dates...who are these people? Why are their books here instead of on the shelf of a child or other close relative? Were they excited to receive the book for Christmas or their birthday? Was the book read over and over again with passages memorized over time with each reading, or was it pushed to the back of a bookcase and never read?

I found receipts and poems tucked away between the pages. Just the sort of thing I would do...using a scrap piece of paper as a bookmark. But in one of the hymnals, I found a poem taped to the back cover and I almost wept when I read it. It was a poem written not for winning hearts, but for breaking them. It was a poem of goodbyes and sorrow. I wondered about the woman who might have received that poem from her lover. Was her heart broken or was she expecting such an act?

There were so many unanswered questions, and my own mortality got up close and personal with me. What will I leave behind? Will there be someone in a secondhand store 75 years from now looking through my books wondering who I was? In spite of our best efforts, we leave so little behind. Not just in terms of the physical, but also the essence of who we were. Once those who knew us are gone, and there is no one left to remember the sound of our laughter or the smell of our skin, that is when we truly die.

Our life here on earth is too fleeting to waste it on things that won't matter in eternity. Just a few deep breaths, and we are finished. So I choose to live my life for Christ while I'm here. No reward or incentive in this life can compare with the glory that waits for me in heaven. My heart is in heaven.

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21


Anonymous said...

This is such a beautifully written post!

I love books too and could spend hours in bookstores, especially second hand ones.

But I especially love your reminder at the end of our own mortality. Knowing that there is more at the end of life is such a comfort...and yep, storing our treasures up there is what really counts :)

luvmy4sons said...

Amen dear sister. I could so realte to this post. I often pass by graveyards and have the same thoughts, wondering who lies there and what their lives were like. We are like the grass, here today and tomorrow thrown into the fire...except our tomorrow lies with God! Lovely thoughts. Thank you!

freetofly said...

love the smell of books! New & old! When I was a child and read series (like Ann of Green Gables, Little House on the Prarie, Trixie Beldin, The Happy Hollisters, so forth) I was so sad to say good-bye!

But, at the same time, in the end, only the things done in service to Him, and the love, real agape love, that is what will last!

Great post!

Andrea said...

that was so incredibly beautiful.
you are a gifted writer, my friend.