Wednesday, December 27, 2006

What I Inherit

Yesterday I had a chance to start mourning the passing of my father-in-law.

I've been awfully busy these past weeks with work and helping the family through their grief, and haven't felt like I had the time or energy to really put toward starting to unpack my reaction to and coming-to-terms with his death.

I have inherited his car - Susan passed it on to me because I am finding myself in need of one with this job. Yesterday I got the oil changed and fluids checked, and when I got home again I started going through the hidden storage compartments. John had left a key-chain leatherman-tool and a small administration oil vial. (For those not familiar with our community, we have a sacrament in which we place a small drop of consecrated olive oil on the head of a person who is ill or troubled, and say a prayer for strength or peace or recovery. My father-in-law and I held the same priesthood office, and I have a similar vial on my own key-chain.)

A key-chain isn't a very private thing, but it seemed very intimate to be holding it. We shared a faith tradition and held a common inheritance. We shared a sacred office, and I will never know how many times he prayed over someone, how beloved he was and how humbled I'm sure he was to be asked. There were few times when I saw John serious - I only heard him preach once, and was never present when he administered to the sick. And yet he and I share this - a key-chain filled with consecrated oil, always at the ready to transition to the sacred; like gun-slingers in the Wild West, hands always at our sides, only in our holsters are shalom.

My own father, when he and John ordained me a couple years ago, presented to me my grandfather's consecrated oil vial - this one quite a bit larger and on a pocket-chain, a mid-twentieth-century version of my aluminum key-chain. He said, as he was giving it to me, that he found fascination and took comfort in the idea that some amount of his own father's oil was still in there. Now I have it with me, and I have my grandfather's and father's consecrated oil to draw on. I think I will ask Susan if I could have the oil in John's vial. Something in me would like to think I have the strength and wisdom of three men to draw on when I offer my small prayers. And, that way, if I have a child someday who inherits my grandfather's vial, that young priesthood member will have two grandfathers to draw on, and John will live on (if silently) in that.

In John's car I also found a stash of his CDs - his driving music presumably. And I liked almost all of them myself, and could imagine John singing along to them. I didn't know John liked Simon & Garfunkel so much, or that he enjoyed Celtic music enough to have multiple CDs, or that he wanted to listen to Scottish-Immigrant folk songs. All of a sudden, I realized with new force how tremendously much I didn't know about John. I hadn't really had much of a chance to get to know him, and there was certainly so much more I could have learned from/about him. I was overwhelmed by the loss of so much - even just the inkling of how much I had lost in John's passing crushed me. For the first time since the Memorial Service, I tarried with the loss.

And it makes what I have inherited even more precious.

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1 Comments:

  • Thanks for sharing! I understand. I did not realize how much I missed my grandma until Christmas Day! When she passed on I also got some of her CD's as well as her new D&C as well as her deceased husbands vial of oil among other things. He was also an Elder in the church.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:57 PM  

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