More Important Matters


While all the children were nestled “snug in their beds” with “visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads,” I am imagining that you struggled to sleep throughout the holiday anxiously awaiting news as to whether Delta had regranted me my airline status for 2024.  Well, yes, Autumn, there really is a Santa Claus.  I woke on Christmas morn to discover that I had crossed that ever-so-difficult-to-figure-out magical line.  (Hint to Delta: You could make your strange algorithm for counting miles wayyyyy more clear for Skymiles members.)

Anyway, I am now once again able to concentrate on what Autumn would call “more important matters.”  I would just say “other matters.”

In the week between Christmas and New Year this year, those “other matters” involved gathering with my siblings to begin to disassemble our childhood home in St. Louis.  Our parents, gratefully, were not prone to hoarding.  Indeed, my dad was always trying to get us to take home our Tupperwares from family dinners and remove every last trace of our grade school artwork from boxes in the attic.  But my family has lived in this home for 54 years and it is the only one we children have ever known, so there are too many memories to count in the kitchen alone. Never mind the cooling cellar or dining room curio cabinet.

I was internally a bit resistant to spend Christmas break this way.  In a season known for joy and laughter, who wants to be pulling out dusty boxes from the attic filled with evidence of a season of life now past?  As a history major, I am inordinately attached to things and places from yesteryear.  I get wistful about saying good-bye to hotel rooms I’ve spend the night in.  How would I handle sleeping for the last time in my childhood bedroom?

But from the moment that the eight of us sat down last Wednesday at our family’s kitchen table to figure out how to broach this overwhelming task… well, it was a season of joy and laughter.  It was often an experience of being outside of time.  An experience of feeling deeply connected, not just to each other as family, but to all of our family who had gone before us.  Mom and Dad, yes.  But also grandparents and great-grandparents.  And then also to our children, who eventually would receive whatever we saved to pass on to them.

The things, the space—they matter.  They call forth the memories.  But in the end, it is the memories themselves that matter, and in some ways, not even the memories themselves, but the way that those memories shape the living of good lives.  Lives that give witness to the values our family has treasured and tried to inculcate in each generation.  For my parents those values included honesty, generosity, simplicity, fairness, attentiveness to detail, hard work, and a special devotion to our littlest members as well as our elders. 

Somewhere in the middle of this past week, I read a quote that struck me: “When ‘home’ is a person and not a ‘place’, that is love.”   It captured so well the journey my own heart was making… still is making… in relation to my childhood home.  My sense of home is becoming attached less and less to a particular address and more and more to my siblings themselves, and our spouses and children, wherever we might all live, no matter how far we must fly.

So, okay, Autumn, yes, I’ll grant you these are “more important matters.”  Geez, I hate when you are right.

Also possibly in the category of “more important matters”:

  • Enjoy my preaching for today (January 4th) on the Dominican WORD website.  It is on the invitation to “behold” and be “beheld” in this new year.
  • Enjoy highlights from my interview with Fr. Michael Bechard in this newly released podcast.  Fr. Michael is long time pastor and diocesan liturgy director who in this past year transitioned to working full time with persons who are experiencing homelessness.  He is also the executive director of Northern Bridge Community Partnership—a partnership of indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians promoting education and wellbeing in northern Canada.  You won’t want to miss this one.