By John Rieping | Published 4 Sept 2014 in The Madera Tribune | All rights reserved |
“ ‘I wish life was not so short,’ he thought. ‘Languages take such a time, and so do all the things one wants to know about.’”
— J.R.R. Tolkien
Time travel can be lovely sometimes.
I learned in April that my grandmother, Carmen Najar Lozano, had written a letter dated in the year 2000, eight years after her death in 1992. She had left it with my late aunt, missionary nun Sister Conception (nicknamed “Conchita”), to be shared after my grandmother’s death.
It was discovered in the belongings of my aunt after her own passing in 2013.
“Esteemed and dear children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” it began in Spanish, which I here poorly translate. “For all without exception a greeting from your mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, who always prays to God with the Virgin Mary for your protection. Now, a great wish that will make me very happy, is that you are always united in not doing less for any member of the family.
“Help the brother who you encounter in need, aiding, that you may be rewarded [by God] a hundredfold and none of you will be lacking. My children, do not forget that I ask this of you, the same as I ask you do not forget your sister Conchita. All of you receive the blessing of your mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.”
In a way, her letter could be considered her last will and testament, though it distributes blessings rather than property. She wanted her progeny to remain united in love, mercy, and prayer to God — and wisely saw those three as a source of divine blessings.
She is not the only one to leave a spiritual testament of sorts.
In August, the Islamic State executed freelance journalist James Foley, 40, in Syria after two years of captivity in an attempt to pressure the U.S. to halt its air strikes. His mother would write on Facebook, “We have never been prouder of our son Jim, he gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people.”
Less than three years before, Foley’s alma mater — Marquette University — published an essay by Foley on his previous imprisonment for reporting in Libya. Foley, a Catholic Christian, shared how prayer sustained him at that time, convinced him he “wasn’t alone,” and delivered him.
He concluded, “If nothing else, prayer was the glue that enabled my freedom, an inner freedom first and later the miracle of being released during a war in which the regime had no real incentive to free us. It didn’t make sense, but faith did.”
His words echo beyond the grave to offer a glimpse into his heart, where surrender to God offered him the surest shelter amid storms of death.
Not all records of our life evoke pride however.
This week the world learned that hackers of Apple’s iCloud (a computer file storage service) had been finding, trading, and selling explicit and private photographs of more than 100 female celebrities for months before a collector known as “OriginalGuy,” and possibly a later copycat as well, posted many online.
A third of the images were reportedly doctored and faked, according to Business Insider on Wednesday, and some of the others had already leaked to the public beforehand. But the lack of respect shown by the involuntary exposure caused shock and an FBI investigation.
Less recently, private contractor Edward Snowden revealed how the U.S. government had already been infringing upon the privacy of users of communication technology.
As we live, traces remain of how we lived and what we lived for. It has ever been so, but we can have short attention spans and quickly forget about it. Yet how do we want to be remembered? What words should we have shared? What deeds should we have done? Who do we want to be?
Such questions rise most readily at the ends of roads we walk, whether the end of school, a job, or a life. Yet it is now, as we are in the middle of our unfinished living, when we can make the greatest difference with the answers. There is no time machine we can use to undo our past.
May we turn not to government or celebrities but to God, and decide anew who we want to be, how we want to live, and what we want to live for. For it is only with God’s help that we will be able to do it well.