|Photo by David Hiser|
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.
Lydia turned, watching my face as I whispered the words of the hymn. Not yet two months old, she lay on her back, listening more quietly than some college students I have known. As I read, I kept my hands on her, caressing her plump arms and belly in rhythm with the words. Such a small creature, yet already so bright and beautiful.
Lydia is the firstborn of two dear college friends, Mark and Moriah, and I spent this past weekend staying with them. As I read to Lydia, her daddy and I were crouched on either side of her. Moriah had already gone to bed, and Mark and I, having failed to put the baby to sleep through rocking, walking, or swaddling, were now on the floor with her, delighting in all her wonderful newness.
The beauty of the night’s wise darkness, the child’s small form, and my friend’s bright eyes all filled my heart. I kept reading. Some joys can only be whispered.
Lydia will not remember that one sweet night in June, her father and I knelt alongside her, listening to the words of a poet who knew that God “made all things well.” She may never know the stories of my friendship with her parents: the days Mark, Keith, Rachel, Mari and I spent rambling through New England, the pumpkins we carved in Moriah’s apartment, the prayers I joined on their wedding day. Nor will she have any conscious recollection of these earliest days in her own home. She will not remember the way the sun shines on the grass in the yard, or the gentle curves in the road to their house. She cannot yet count the number of times her parents say, “I love you,” and they may read a hundred books to her before she is able to call one back to her mind. As I read about “Each little flower that opens, / Each little bird that sings,” I realized that she will probably not remember the very first flower she sees, or the first bird with its tiny wings.
We often think of home as a place where we have good memories, but since visiting my friends and meeting their daughter, I have been marveling at the thought of how much we do not know. Home, no matter how small, is a place where a thousand beautiful things lie hidden from us. What words did Moriah’s mother speak over her cradle? How many friends calmed Mark’s tears when he was too young to know them? How many beautiful days dawned and set before I could tell one from another?
Even as we grow, we see through such a dark glass, and the lens of our memory is clouded, too. One of my fancies about heaven is that we might be taught to remember all the beautiful things we missed while we lived on earth. Perhaps when we are at home within eternity, we will remember the words that love whispered on our earliest days, days when all things bright and beautiful first kindled our longing for home.