A Young Historian’s Meditation on the Living and the Dead

I spend my days among the dead, the ancient and the old,

I haunt the halls of history, the dusty and the cold.

The pages cannot speak to me, the paper has no face,

The letters cannot laugh with me, the ink gives no embrace.

And yet I love discovery, I live in days gone by,

I love the who, what, where, and when, the whether and the why.

But now that one I dearly love is drawing near to death,

And edging ever closer to her last and final breath,

I find myself rebuked for seeing with the eyes of youth,

And failing to appreciate a plain and simple truth:

That archives, graves, and libraries will never disappear,

But kindred, friends, and family will leave us year by year.

If I should wish to hear the voice of one who’s gone before,

Why would I not give equal time, in fact, why not give more,

To those who live, to those who love, to those that yet remain,

To those we know, to those we see, to those who share our name?

No manuscript or signature, no photograph or note,

Can substitute or replicate a grandpa’s anecdote.

No treasure of the ancient world can rival or replace

The loving tender kindness of a grandma’s smiling face.

No comfort and no luxury will equal or compare,

To simple joys like hearth and home when family is there.

We waste our time with pixeled screens, with that which matters not,

Neglecting those who will, one day, be only in our thoughts.

And if we fail to take the time to spend our days with them,

How poor will be our reminiscing in memoriam?

Begin to know them from the day they leave their mother’s womb,

And stay with them until their body lies within a tomb.

Give honor to the hoary head, give honor to great age;

Give honor to the faithful, and the loving, and the sage.

Do not neglect to know your line, to know your family tree,

Or you will know remorse, regret, toward your ancestry.

So speak to them and be with them, and know their history,

Before they slip away from you into antiquity.

And fill your life with family, with lifelong souvenirs,

With stories, tales, and memories that last throughout the years.

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Questions and Answers for the Afflicted

When sorrows surge, and strength has fled,
When streams become a flood,
When man is laid upon his bed,
And finds he’s flesh and blood,
Where will he run, where will he turn,
Where can a creature go?
When will he see, when will he learn,
What he should surely know?

“Why now? Why here? Why me? Why this?
Why us?” we cry aloud.
“Have I behaved aright? Amiss?”
We ask, with body bowed.
“Has God forgotten to be kind,
Will he not keep his vows?”
Such thoughts and questions fill the mind,
More than the soul allows.

Yet through his word, fit for my frame,
I find myself consoled.
“Recall my deeds, recall my name,
Recall my works of old.
Twas I who brought the Israelites
Out from their slavery.
Twas I who led them day and night
Through deadly land and sea.

Recall to mind, and then have hope,
That I do all things well.
When in the shadows, blind, you grope,
I will, the dark, dispel.
New, new, each morn, my mercies are,
Bright as the rising sun.
And whether you go near or far,
They cannot be undone.”

But greater still than parted waves,
Or manna from the sky,
Is God the Son, who came to save,
Who only lived to die.
He is the bread; he is the way
Through death and judgment’s path.
And he alone saves on that day
Of God’s unfailing wrath.

And in his death I start to see,
The clouds begin to clear.
The questions that were plaguing me
Begin to disappear.
In history, outside of me,
I see God’s working hand,
And find a true reality
That makes me understand.

For if my God through wickedness,
Can bring about his plan
To save from sins in righteousness
An undeserving man,
Then can he not in my life, too,
Cause good to come from ill?
And should I not, since this is true,
Resign to trust his will?

Who else have I, who else have we,
If not our God above?
Where can we fly, where can we flee,
If not to he who’s love?
We can, we may, we will, we must,
Find rest in God alone.
The creature’s sole and only trust,
Is he who’s on the throne.

And do I not have reasons great
To know that this is so?
Since he, in heaven, sets my fate
Here on the earth below?
And so the Father calms his child.
He wipes and dries my tears
And in his ever-loving arms
The Father calms my fears.

What vanities befall me now,
I know they work for good.
And though I often don’t see how,
I see the cross of wood.
So, when my sorrows well within,
As sorrows well without,
I’ll take my Savior’s medicine,
And banish fear and doubt.

These thoughts were drawn especially from Psalm 77 and Lamentations 3.