The other day we had the good old red Fisher Price rooster out once again, and all of the sudden a song leaped back into my memory.
My mother's parents divorced when I was a baby, and my grandfather remarried Marion not long after. We didn't visit them often, and when we did I felt as if I didn't know how to relate to Marion or my grandfather. I felt as if I didn't know them; like they were strangers. But there was this one day we were all sitting around and Marion (who was very musical and liked to sing) took out a guitar, and suddenly we were having a sing-a-long. She knew a lot of folksy-type songs and one of them happened to be about a rooster. Out of all the songs we sang that evening, the one that always stuck in my head was the rooster song, which went something like:
I love my rooster my rooster loves me
I cherish that rooster 'neath a green bay tree
My little rooster goes cock-a-doodlE-doodlE-doodlE-doodlE-do...
(If anyone really cares, this song was apparently sung by Almeda Riddle in 1962, although that's sort of an irrelevant point here.)
So there we were playing with the rooster again when this song came to mind out of nowhere, and I started singing it for Ethan. He LOVED it. He asked me to sing it again. And again. Then he started trying to sing it. And now this song, from a moment that literally had not surfaced in my mind in years, has become a household staple.
There are things that happen to us that remain dormant for a time, only to be revived at just the moment when we or someone else need them.
My grandmother, my Nonna, and I were very close. It was hard to watch her slip into Alzheimer's about 15 years ago. One of the most challenging moments came when my dad and uncles had decided she needed to move into a facility -- she wasn't safe at home. I was on the phone with her one day, and I can remember it clearly. It was May; spring was coming alive. Five years from that May Nonna would pass away. But that day she was still in the stage of being able to understand she did not want to leave her home and everything that was familiar. "Why are they doing this to me?" she wailed to me on the phone, wanting me to do something. "I don't want to go there." My heart was breaking. I didn't know what to say. The moment troubled me for some time. Eventually it moved to a less prominent place in my mind.
This past week at Bible study one of the women there mentioned her ongoing struggles with her husband with Alzheimer's, who she just placed in a nursing home. "I'm dealing with a lot of guilt," she told us, and we were interrupted before anyone had a chance to really listen or encourage.
But driving home from the study, that moment with Nonna sprang back to me, clear as day. I can talk to Emily, I thought. I can tell her I have had just a glimpse into what she's facing. And who knows if that glimpse years ago was indeed in part FOR Emily?
How would we live, or how much better might we live, if we knew everything that happens to us will not be wasted? I think sometimes a great deal of our suffering comes from much of it not seeming to make any sense or to have purpose. When we acknowledge that God's ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts, we are not just conceding that this vague tide of experience we all have is part of some huge master plan -- but that God even sees the details. God saw me at age 9 singing a song about a rooster, and knew someday I would pull it out for my rooster-loving boy. And when we cannot see or know, God knows how the heartache of the present will build something in us, not just for us, but for someone else who at some point in time will also need it.
In the book An Unexpected Joy, a mom writing of her son's autism says something along the lines of, "I've learned that if I don't understand what's happening to me, it could be that it's for someone else."
Nothing that happens to us is pointless. Nothing is wasted.