Hidden Joys of Healthy Reminiscing

Hidden Joys of Healthy Reminiscing

I love to get absorbed in a good, long book eager to get to the end but always saddened when the last page is turned. I hate for the story to end.  Life is kind of like that, too. Friends’ stories end as they are released and we advance to the reminiscing mode in order to deal with and heal from missing our loved one.

Last week our friend, Dave, joined his family, friends and Jim Ward in the community of heaven (as son, Roger expressed). Dave was a very special friend, playing a significant role in our lives since we met. Detailed remembering of family and friends who shaped our stories can be joy-filled as my account of Dave’s contribution to our lives and family will show. My purpose is twofold: the hidden joys of healthy reminiscing as well as encouragement to parents to involve your kids in your outside-of-family friendships. Daughter, Kay’s observation expressed so well appears at the end. I want to emphasize the importance of cultivating friendships wherever you live. Friends enrich your lives by their uniqueness as well as exposing you to their distinctive family culture in an extension of non-related family. They shape our lives as we help to shape theirs. My heart has been warmed as I have reminisced about my special relationship with Dave.

Reminiscing is more fun if there’s someone who remembers right along with you. But with the conclusion of many family and friends’ stories, if you’re the last one, you are obliged to switch from verbal sharing to visual remembrances as photo albums pages turn. We are so thankful for all those who patiently posed for our cameras. Viewing Jim ‘s photos posted in every room brings me and our family great satisfaction and smiles.

For us, Dave’s story began in 1964. In my new position as Secretary to the Dean of Students at Seminary, one of my responsibilities was sharing new addresses with the Alumni Office next door. That’s where I met Dave, a new seminary student working part time along with his involvement with the military.  We were about the same age, several years older than most students, and we became friends quickly. Dave was single, a graduate of The Citadel, and preparing to serve as a youth director. Very soon, I had the privilege of introducing Jim and Dave. We were also new to the area visiting churches to see where we and our four little kids would fit. Dave invited us to a country church where he was a volunteer part-time youth director.

One visit to the church 20 minutes from Fort Worth, in Retta, Texas, and we fell in love with the pastor, his wife, their two teenaged children and the congregation. Pastor Cal was also a Professor and head of the Missions Department at Seminary, so I saw him regularly at my office because he and my boss had graduated from seminary together and were very good friends.

Dave’s marriage to Lee, from Virginia, occurred a couple months later, and we heartily welcomed her into our circle. A delightful and extremely talented gal. The four of us worked in that church teaching youth and assisting Dave with youth retreats, music and missions. Then Dave, knowing Jim was looking for a church to pastor, urged Pastor Cal to hire Jim as his Associate Pastor. Jim was hired to teach and preach. We owe Dave much gratitude for his instrumentality in that position which eventually played a critical role in our coming to minister in York. Dave was always concerned about the other person advancing or having what they needed. He looked way ahead, was generous with his time and money and was very kind. He was like a brother to us.

Professor Cal made trips to home mission areas which were planting churches. When he returned from a tour of Pennsylvania, knowing that Jim and I were interested in home missions, he urged Jim to consider applying for an 18-month-old pastorless mission. We accepted their invitation after Jim’s Seminary graduation and arrived in York on August 13, 1967.

Dave and Lee went a different direction with involvement in Air Force. However, our friendship thrived by visiting each other as often as possible no matter where we had to drive. Dave made it possible for our young family to experience some theme parks on those trips, since we could not afford them. I remember with joy one visit where we met Peggy, Dave’s mother, in SC.  My mother was travelling with us as well.  I can still see Peggy and hear her delight in having us visit. What a blessing to get acquainted with Peggy, who was quite loquacious, humorous and easy to visit with. She even “bedded all of us down” as the southern expression goes. She had prepared a meal that I’ll never forget with a salad bar spread across two rooms.  My mother had never witnessed southern hospitality of this caliber.

A few years later, when Dave and Lee’s oldest son died, Dave picked us up in York in his private plane so Jim could officiate at the funeral. Losing a child has to be one of the most difficult experiences in life. We were glad to minister to them.

Dave was fascinated with my five sibling’s love for our mother and our cohesiveness despite living in six states. He enjoyed hearing about the McRoberts family campout-reunions drawing from all over U.S. numbering 50-70. He’d call us early spring to get directions to our camping area, and it wasn’t unusual for him and his youngest son to drive a good distance to come for a day, always bearing a box of delicious SC peaches. My siblings have joined me in reminiscing about Dave.

Daughter, Kay’s response to Dave’s passing was: “Dave and Dad have lots to talk about- so sad he's gone but glad his suffering is over. Good thing we have such wonderful memories and a big reunion and the hope of seeing them all again. Your friendship with the Andrews certainly blessed my life immensely. It was a wonderful way for me to see other people who trusted the Lord and how they shared such love with us outside of our immediate and church family.”

As I have thought about our warm association over so many years, I recall how after our suitcases were barely set down, that Dave and I would begin our teasing badinage—two competitive Intuitives. I teased him mercilessly about always having to be in control. I am amused anew about the differences in our God-designed temperaments, and how well we all functioned together. Naturally, I gave them the Myers-Briggs Temperament Indicator (MBTI) questionnaire. Dave was INTP, Jim ESTJ, Lee, ESFJ and Ruth ENFJ—among us we possessed every preference. Knowing the design of each contributed greatly to mutual respect and communication and much fun as we discussed our differences.  I will miss my friend, Dave.

Every person we meet leaves a mark, and by the same token a mark is left with the person who meets us.  Yes, some people wear us out and others refresh our spirits.  And we do the same to others. Interaction with others of all types is quite an interesting mystery. The more we are attuned to our personalities, the more we will appreciate the interactions between us and others as we listen, converse and observe. We really do need each other.

I encourage you to make a list of your best friends and record the primary benefit you receive from them. Dipping back into memories with Dave, has stimulated my entire system and I thank God for him. Thinking about Dave and all he has meant to us through the years has also brought me great joy as well as healing.

The scriptures have a lot to say about friends, friendships, respect and understanding. Proverbs, especially is full of practical wisdom regarding friends.

“There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Prov. 18:24 (NIV)

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Prov. 17:17 (NIV)

9 “As the Father has loved me, so Have I loved you… 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that yours may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15: 9, 11-12 (NIV)

Live in harmony with one another…13 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Rom. 12:16 (NIV)


As I was describing this week’s blog to a friend this morning, I began to share a situation that highlights a very important consideration circling around seniors who reminisce an oft-heard story that you could repeat word for word. Rather than interrupting him/her, consider yourself a humble participant in a senior’s attempt to continue the long-term healing process of loss through reminiscing. Then, it hit me, that this is why Jim’s grandfather, Papa Ward, chose to retroactively ‘forgive’ or ‘forget’ my Yankee background since I patiently listened to his same stories without interruption. Please share your stories, questions or comments and with your help I’ll continue this subject. ruthjimward@gmail.com  or use the blog comment section.