By: Ellen Nimmo
It’s ten o’clock at night and it’s still hot, though I don’t notice it much. The Texas border isn’t too far from here, but we’re in Arkansas (thank God) and I’m in bed. The room smells like a mixture of mothballs, peppermint and night air coming in through the open window. I feel strangely awake and tired-out all at once. My ears are ringing; it’s the song of the cicadas in summer.
The ringing lasts and lasts. But it’s OK, it gives me time to remember the day.
How Grandma let me make the lemonade. How she praised my work saying, “My this sure is some gooooooood lemonade” and then to my Grandpa, “Dads, you gotta taste this lemonade!” The fields with cattle and the ones without, which my brother and I played in endlessly. The horse blanket smell mixed with leather when my aunt Lynn showed up to join us for lunch and how I want to be just like her someday: beautiful and brave, a cowgirl and a maiden all in one. Giving the terrier pup a soapy, cold bath, picking the ticks off and watching Grandma send them to their timely demise between her pearly painted nails. Lizards my brother and I chased and caught on the rock wall of the house among the mint laden flower beds – their blue tails breaking off in our hands, allowing for their flashy escape. Dinner with all the fixins, mmmmmmM! And the awkward moments waiting for Grandpa to speak.
The ringing of the cicadas had and held the last note of the day. The night walk down the gravel; my grandmother’s strong and steady gait leading the way between the sprints of my brother and I chasing fireflies; their twinkling glow encircling us amid the cicadas’ strong refrain.
Do I sound nostalgic? Or a more appropriate question: Would I give my two front teeth to be walking that dirt road with Grandma and my brother right now, in willing submission to the heat and roaring hum in the trees? You bet I would.
But, if I’ve learned anything, I’ve learned that memories are nothing more than life. Nothing less either. In fact, memories are life, at least partially, and they can seem (like life) full of possibility and hope or weak and pitiful. They can be full of joy or sorrow, merriment or pain. Or as the saying goes, sometimes the memory is bittersweet. It’s both. Bitter and sweet. Sweet and bitter.
You know what else? Memories are echoes.
Echoes of life. Life that we either wish we were having again or wish we never had. Blessings or curses, and some that jitter in-between. Granted, there are those blessed few who see each moment and memory, even the bad memories, as an echo, a mere shadow, of the goodness to come or the sadness that will forever be left behind, vanished.
But are they right? We rightly question. Will life, like the ticks between my grandma’s nails, always come to an abrupt end and be lost forever? Or does life continue on, after? Into some lulling, entrancing beyond?
Answer is, we don’t know. Not for sure. No one does.
And while I have no proof – at least nothing I can hold in my hands – I can speak of peace. And echoes.
One of my aunts died last night in her sleep. Loretta Joyce. Deaf since childhood, Loretta’s ears never rang with the song of the cicada, though she likely took many a summer walk down gravel roads with my grandmother, her mother. Loretta wore her expressions as a window to her thoughts: a beaming smile or pensive stare were two of the most common. As I mourn the loss and celebrate her life, I find myself inescapably thinking of the person of Jesus, the ideas he taught, the life he lived and the death he died.
Loretta seemed to hear that echo too, the hope Jesus claimed to be bringing to a world who often turned a deaf ear. A promise of restoration and renewal from long ago. Today I found this verse on her Facebook wall:
“Behold, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.” – Isaiah 65:17
The nature of the divine, there, ringing loudly – the song of soul –
It’s family. It’s long walks. It’s cicada humming and firefly glow.
It’s where the echoes lead me.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
And again just a few verses later:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
May our ears ring with good news; we can have peace amidst trouble. Light amidst dark. And memories that point to a greater future.
in memory of Loretta Joyce