She pulls out her thin high school yearbook from 1948, the white cover now yellowed with age. Locating her class of 47 kids, she begins to tell me their stories. She shows me the boy who drove her and her brother to school, and who always saved the front seat for the cute cheerleader. She tells me about her friends. She recalls who married and who divorced, who was friendly or funny, what they went on to do with their lives.
Her stories bring to life these black and white faces full of hope and promise, reminding me of my own high school days. They were not so different from us. In some ways we are all the same.
And then she nonchalantly tells me how they died, so many of them, one by one. This one from cancer, that one in a car accident, another from some other disease she can’t quite remember. So many of these smiling faces frozen in time have passed from this life, and their passing is now just part of their story. “That was the end of him,” she says.
I guess that’s how it can be when you’re 82 years old and you’ve seen so many of your contemporaries leave this life behind. Death becomes more matter-of-fact than surprising. Not that she is unmoved or unfeeling. Sometimes her eyes fill with tears at the thought of the loss.
But she knows, really knows, that we are all heading that way. In the wisdom that comes perhaps partly from age, but even more from the hope of an unshakable faith, she accepts the inevitable. And rather than despair, she presses on with the living that remains to be done. She walks in faith that the One who brought her into this world will see her through to the other side. That there will be peace and joy and life everlasting. And there is, even now.
Sometimes her eyes fill with tears at the thought of all the loss.
Sometimes I marvel at her calm resolve and acceptance.
Sometimes I wonder what people will say about my story after I’m gone.
Sometimes I wonder what my end will be.
As a mother of three children, I hate to even think about not being here for them. But we all have an end coming. Best to be mindful and make the most of our time here. Love God. Love others. Live in line with our priorities and values. Press on through the fear that would hold us back and keep us small. Live large in love and honor and truth.
She closes the yearbook, gently rubbing its cover, wishing the years had not yellowed it so. She wonders if there’s a way to make it white again. But I think it’s just fine. No matter how time has changed the outside cover, it’s the inside that still holds the treasure.