The old man gently placed the needle on the spinning disk producing a slight cracking sound, which gave way to the sound of a single piano key sustained for four beats, then a half note, and then another, as a whole melody floated forth. The old man reclined comfortably on his cracked and patched dark leather chair, which had no special feature other than it being his, and his for half a century. With his scruffy gray hair on the head rest and feet up, he closed his eyes, and sank into the stories of the recordings. With each song, with each part of each song, pictures flashed into his mind, his first dance with his wife, and their last before she passed from cancer, his daughter’s wedding, where he couldn’t stop laughing and crying at the same time, and the along with a hurricane of beautiful, beautiful memories filled his soul.
“Thank You for a beautiful life.” He whispered to God. “You have been most generous to me.” And he smiled that contented smile that is only possible when one is truly utterly content, and to him life was perfect. Nevermind that tomorrow he would be evicted for failing to pay rent and be moved to a known abusive old folks home. Nevermind that all he had was $100 in the bank, all that was left of a multimillion fortune lost in the last crash and his wife’s prolonged battle with cancer – a battle she lost. Nevermind that his best friends were all dead. That’s what old age does. Nevermind that his body felt like a tight rubber band and ached everywhere everyday. Nevermind that his daughter’s son was in jail for drugs. Nevermind it all. On this moment, life was good, not merely in his imagination but in memory, for memory is past actuality, at least the actuality we accept. On this moment he was reminding himself that life is very much, in actuality, beautiful, as proven by the music played from the grooves of his soul.
I have decided to fill the soundtrack of my life with beautiful things and beautiful perspectives on the struggles and adversity, to be grateful of God’s grace in all things, and as I remind myself of unmerited favor, to be forgiving, to be so excellent as to be so generous. I have decided to dream as grand as I can, to attempt for as great as I can, and if the reality looks darker than expected, I will remind myself of His grace and my glorious actuality. Maybe that’s why Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 13 that love does not keep a record of wrongs. Maybe it’s because love chooses to remember beauty because experiencing the beauty of something reinforces our love just as experiencing past pain once again (as what happens with unforgiven things) weakens our affection. The records we keep dictate the quality of our relationships. Do we record a melody of grace or a mourning song? Do we build a case for love or prepare for litigation? The records we keep form the evidence presented to our heart, and whichever case is strongest, gratefulness or bitterness, will inevitably win.
The young man’s tear fell on to the crumpled letter he just read blotting the J of his grandfather’s name. A message delivered. Its intention achieved. The young man smiled and bent on his knees to give thanks. Nevermind that his room was barely large enough to fit one person. Nevermind that it was dark. Nevermind that he was alone. Nevermind that he was in a cell. On this moment he was reminded that we are never truly alone. Lying on his bunk he listened to the childhood hymns of freedom, bringing him back to life’s beautiful actuality, as recorded on the grooves of his soul.