MATTHEW 25: 14-30

OCTOBER 3, 2004

INTRODUCTION: Fishman: Life’s details can be elusive

Jane Fishman Savannah Morning News

In one 10-hour period last month, on a Saturday, I attended a funeral for a 90-year-old woman, a baby shower for a sweet-tempered 5-month-old boy born in Vietnam and an inter-generational birthday party for a wild woman turning 50.

In any one of those events there were enough flash points for conversations that could last a day and then some. But because most of us are so backed up and starved for time -- and it’s not just me, I know this for a fact -- we often come home at the end of the night with vague memories of half-conversations, of questions never answered.

On the run and over the music, we ask, how’s the separation working out? Where’s your daughter going to college? Any leads on the job hunt? Was she ill for long? What’s the deal on the house you wanted to buy?

The week before, it was a double bris for twins in the middle of a weekday afternoon; we have time only to wave at someone way down in the front of the synagogue. Two days later came a weekend trip to New York to see a friend gravely ill with cancer. Then there was a call from my mother about a curb she didn’t see and a fall that was minor. The only thing she broke was a pair of glasses that needed replacing anyway.

And that was just in my little, itty-bitty corner of the world. All around me were other swirls and eddies of existence: a wedding in Forsyth Park I stopped and watched for a few minutes, a parade a few blocks over, a child trying on a Halloween costume that needed mending, a neighbor trying to refinance his house, a phone call from a friend about her daughter who is in love for the first time, an e-mail from someone who just celebrated her 23rd wedding anniversary, a quick conversation and future plans to have lunch with a couple just back from a month in Sicily.

Nothing less than the full order of life, the full catastrophe, Nicholas Kazankakis’ Zorba the Greek might have said. A lot to hear, even more to absorb.

It’s a good thing there are other people who attend the same events.

Then we can review and compare. Then we can remember. I was thinking about this during a phone conversation with my cousin John, who lives in San Francisco. We love one another, but because of time and distance and our own individual and arbitrary life choices, we get together only during planned events. The last one was his nephew’s wedding in May.

We all met for lunch the day after the wedding. John reminded me (I had forgotten) where we gathered -- at Alban’s, a venerable Detroit-area restaurant on Woodward Avenue -- "home of the big-wheel sandwich" with cheese on brown pumpernickel bread and thousand island dressing.

"I sat next to your mom," he said. "We had a real nice conversation."

(Two days later, when I tell this to my mom, she says, "Now which one is John?" I take a deep breath and say, "You know. Johnny. Your brother Saul’s son. Kenny’s brother. My first cousin. Dorothy was his mother. Remember Dorothy?"

And she says, "I get all mixed up. I think I remember."

But unless he’s in front of her, I know she doesn’t. She’s thinking of another John who lives a few miles from her. This one is her great-grandson. This one just turned 14.

Then San Francisco John tells me his favorite part of the wedding, when friends of the bride and groom lifted them in a chair to the music of an energetic klezmer dance band.

I had forgotten that.

Then I tell him my favorite part. When his nephew, Kenny’s son, Saul and Dorothy’s grandson, was reciting his homemade vows about his bride, going on and on about the usual stuff -- her big heart and kind ways and fabulous lasagna -- when all of a sudden, he brightened and exclaimed, "Plus, she’s really hot!"

John didn’t remember.

"Are you making that up?" he said.

I don’t think so. But maybe. It’s all a blur.

TRANSITION THOUGHT: Do you ever wonder if the details are all that important anyway? Do all the little pieces really added up? Does it really matter what I remember and what I get done? And then we hear this text that Tony read to us and all the sudden the little things seem to add up and we realize that the devil is in the details. Each little thing matters, each little part of the equation is important. Somehow we are expected to pay attention and we thought we were too poor for that. Sometimes we just want to forget the details and pretend they don’t exist, but here we are, face to face with Jesus and He explains why the details really do matter and make all the difference in the world!

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