On knowing when to ‘say when’ in 2010
Column by Jim Bishop
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Wonder if I can write anything substantive while riding shotgun in our 2001 Alero on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on a bitterly cold Sunday morning while returning to Harrisonburg? Stay tuned and see . . .
I was hoping to start a column draft during three glorious days Anna and I spent with extended family in eastern Pennsylvania over New Year’s weekend, but those best-laid plans, well, so it goes. Nor did I accomplish half the things on my postponed “to do” list before we left town.
Actually, things haven’t been “normal” – however one defines that term – ever since Ole Man Winter dumped two feet of snow on the Valley the weekend before Christmas. We hadn’t started digging out at the Belmont ranch when the message arrived Sunday morning, Dec. 20, that my mom, Ann Dayton Bishop, had died peacefully during the night at her Rockhill Mennonite Community residence in Pennsylvania. It wasn’t a surprise, but still when it finally happened, it was hard to face that reality.
Now, both Anna’s parents and my dad and mom were gone, and a lonely feeling crept over me. Our plans suddenly changed, and we made a quick trip to Pennsylvania to remember and to celebrate Mom’s 88 year reign as Queen Mother of the Bishop tribe. It was a happy-sad occasion, a fitting tribute to Mom and the gift she was to so many people.
In the aftermath, we were deeply moved by the flood of cards, handwritten notes and email sympathy messages received, some from persons we don’t even know. To each of you, heartfelt “thanks” is scarcely adequate to convey our appreciation on behalf of my family.
After returning to the ‘Burg just in time for our own family celebration on Christmas Eve, we turned around and dashed back to eastern Pennsylvania – the third trip for me in a month, having gone there to attend the funeral of my cousin Stan Bishop, 69, just before Thanksgiving. Rather sobering – seeing the first family member of my generation to step from this world to the next.
It seems like several weeks ago that we were anticipating, with perhaps a bit of anxiety, the start of a new century, including Y2K and the Big Question of whether the world might end at the stroke of midnight (Eastern time?). It didn’t, we survived, even thrived, and now are moving headfirst into the first year of the second decade of the 21st century.
With our schedules in a state of upheaval between funerals, Christmas and New Year’s observances and much time spent on the road, I’d spent little time pondering my new year’s priorities. But I’m doing that now with my laptop computer literally sitting in my lap, “Alan Jackson’s Greatest Hits” on one of Anna’s cassette tapes playing in the background, the car swaying in the crosswind on I-81 and thoughts of us returning to our respective workplaces bright and early Monday morning.
I pause and give thanks that we both have gainful employment. Many are not so fortunate. Seeing the movie, “Up in the Air,:” with George Clooney as the suave hatchet man whose earned big bucks by informing persons that their services were no longer required, provided a stark reminder in that regard. I resolve to return to my workplace with fresh determination to give each day my best effort because of the satisfaction received in what I do and because I observe firsthand the mission of Christian higher education changing the lives of many students.
The events of the past several weeks underscore again the importance of relationships and of giving priority to family. My brother Eric said it well as we Bishops sat around the table in their home: “We have many good memories of our parents, but what’s more important is the values they instilled in us by word and example and that ground and sustain us as we face life’s many uncertainties. They being dead yet speaketh.”
As this new year unfolds, I recommit myself to carrying on the legacy of my parents and other departed loved ones who have carried the torch of faith. That means, as the song goes, thinking a lot more of others and
less of me, offering words of encouragement to others, laughing with those who laugh and grieving with those who grieve. Regular exercise, eating in moderation, adequate sleep and a daily devotional time will continue to receive major attention.
We just crossed the Mason-Dixon line . . . home beckons, responsibilities summon. I pray for the touch of the Master’s hand and rest in that blessed reassurance for the tasks ahead.