Thursday, March 2, 2017

On Sorting

The books came to my office in waves.

First my books. Brought in the days before I officially began here.

July 1, 2014 I was officially the pastor. I’d unpacked my books the day before, taking off the shelves the books left from the previous pastor—orphans in their own right. Books waves of previous pastors left her, then she left me.

I boxed them up, put them out for members to look through, and washed my hands of those orphaned books.

The next wave of books came from my father. Well, along a path from him.

Dad, an avid reader whose library may have rivaled ancient Alexandria’s, died suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving his church office frozen in time. And his books sitting organized on his shelves. Ready to be read. To be lended. I never saw the books there, patiently and futily awaiting his return. Instead, months after his death a kind colleague boxed up the best, the personal, and sent them up to me.

Then came my brother Dan’s books.

My husband and I boxed up those ourselves. Scatted, disorganized, and including some Dan had received from Dad.

Dad was like that—I think he loved lending books as much as reading them. Many of my own books were borrow from Dad or given as gifts.

There had been no time to sort Dan’s books, so we had packed them all. Waiting for some later date to be sorted.

That’s how Dan left us.

Waiting for some later date to be sorted and put back into order.

Dan committed suicide. My mom discovered his body on a Sunday (Father’s Day—just shy of a year after Dad’s death). By Tuesday we were packing those boxes. That Saturday we were emptying Dan’s parsonage.

We needed time we didn’t have to sort things out.

Maybe Dan had needed that too.

Thus came the books.

And in boxes they sat.

And sat.

And sat.

Until today.

I cannot tell you how many days “sort books” was on my to do list. Too many.

Today I sorted. I had long had this awful feeling that the task wouldn’t take long.

Even as I flipped through each book in the dozen or so boxes, it still went quickly.

It seems to me that two lives defined by books, ideas, beliefs and commitment should take a lot longer to sort through.

Yesterday we were reminded that we are dust, and to dust we shall return.

Dad and Dan were dust. They were also, in some ways, books. Those books recall their lives. Their studies. Their passions in ministry.

The fact that some boxes I had to double check whose office the books had come from reminds me how tied together they were.

And so sit the boxes destined for sale or trash. The boxes are a bit lighter for their few I have kept. Part of the remains my father and brother left me. Reminders of conversations we had. And conversations we never got to have. I had hoped there might be some great message left tucked in the pages of one of their books. But no. Their messages, their lives, were not there. Maybe glimpses shine forth in the notes in the margins. I think Dad would find great power in the view of our lives seen in our notes in the margins. 

Sometimes we all need some sorting out.

Sometimes we are able, by God’s grace, to do this ourselves.

Sometimes we must rely on others to do this.

You are dust. To dust you shall return.

May God sort us all out in due time.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I stumbled across your blog and just read your post on the books. Not sure why I feel compelled to comment on it but maybe because I have an affinity for books myself and find my own journey reflected in and by the words and ideas that have shaped me.
    What a tough time for you and your family. I lost my own father to an accident on my birthday eight years ago now, and I still pick up the book of poetry that he used to read to us as children in order to find a sense of connection again.
    I pray that the unfulfilled hopes and dreams of your dad and brother may find expression in the grace of God in your own life and journey.

    Pete Moore (