The month of May zipped by so fast.

It was a full month. It was a busy month.

Let’s start with this man and his talk at the Family History Conference: New Arrivals in a New Land, in Lancaster, PA, on May 20. John L. Ruth, historian and storyteller, told how three ships came sailing into Philadelphia harbor in 1717, three hundred years ago.

Most of the people in the room had at least one ancestor on that ship.

John Ruth speaking at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society Conference. May 20, 2017.

John Ruth speaking at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society Conference. May 20, 2017.

For me, the most intriguing thing John said, tongue partly in cheek, was this:

“Our people were too holy and busy to think of us coming later. They didn’t write things down. We are their spiritual children and have to try to recover some of their capacious spirituality. Try to write a few things down.”

John’s challenge stayed with me in the busy and holy days that followed.

I participated in Kairos Place, a program to encourage writers and writing at Eastern Mennonite University. For four days I focused on writing and on listening to other writers.

Vi Dutcher, in white, leads the daily centering time at Kairos Place, for EMU faculty and staff.

The daily centering time at Kairos Place, in the President’s Room in the EMU library. L-R: Gretchen Hostetter Maust, Janelle Mazariegos, Vi Dutcher (leader), and Paul Yoder.

And then it was time to gather up these two cherubs into my arms and play throughout the Memorial Day Weekend.

Grandson Owen, tree climber.

Grandson Owen, tree climber.

Granddaughter Julia reminding me of her Aunt Kate.

Granddaughter Julia reminding me of her Aunt Kate.

I swallowed sadness at saying good-bye to son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren by cleaning, making turkey soup, and inviting friends to help us eat homemade ice cream and strawberries we picked ourselves.

I met my spiritual director Sheryl Shenk.

She asked me whether my life was full or busy.

It’s both, but I left our prayer space with another question that stuck with me.

And a memory from the play Our Town:

 “EMILY: “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?”

STAGE MANAGER: “No. Saints and poets maybe…they do some.”

Then I joined the other members of our newly-formed Threshold Choir and sang words of comfort and hope we are beginning to share with those in the last stages of their life journey.

I love the sweet music we make together.

Blue Ridge Threshold Choir

Blue Ridge Threshold Choir L-R: Sadie Showalter, Mamie Mellinger, Donna Heatwole (director), Barbara Moyer Lehman, Ann Yoder, Virginia Spicher, Mary Glick, me, Shirley Yoder.

Finally, on the last day of May, I met with these wonderful people.

Powderhorse Writers

Powderhorse Writers L-R: Me, Alison Brookins, Jennifer Murch, Valerie Serrels, Ted Swartz, Jim Clemens, Carolyn Yoder

This group of writers meets weekly.

We help each other write plays, essays, memoirs, and poems.

We offer gentle criticism and lavish praise.

We have fun.

Our next meeting is scheduled for my house.

I’ll be bringing all my leftover May questions, wrapped up in a draft of the keynote address I’ll be giving in August at the Brubaker Reunion. The Brubakers were on board the one of the ships that arrived in 1717.

When I agreed to speak, I proposed this description:

The “Purpose of Memories” answers the question, “Why should we care about our ancestors and the place they called home?”

Now all I have to do is answer my own question: What is the purpose of memories?

I am deeply grateful for the fullness of my life and the many people who so generously share their wisdom with me. I would love to know what this question or the others above evokes in you. Can you help? 

Thank you!

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