Up until last Thursday, Chicago still belonged to just Maureen and I. As I wrote in “Our Story | The Windy City” before we left Austin, Maureen and I met in Chicago, were married here, had our first apartment and house here. After we landed on Thursday, though, at 4:30pm, we began to write a new chapter and create new memories with our children. It stopped being only our story.
It is important to point out the difference between a meme and memories. Memories are specific things, and a meme is an idea. The most important meme that we needed to share with our children is the meme of love, Maureen and my love for each other and our love for them, and how, if they propagate that love, they can be “love mirrors,” as I told my daughter in a text last night. Like light, love can reflect, but rather than the mirror being a reflective surface, with love, the reflection comes from another’s heart.
I will come back to the meme of love, after spending a little time with our memories. Of course, the most important place to start any Chicago memory is with pizza, and so, we popped out, after settling into our hotel, and grabbed some deep dish at Giordano’s. I think my son’s words put it best as he savored his first few bites, “oh my god, this is a whole new world.” You could see the joy in his face as he enjoyed this finest of Chicago delicacies. As a dad, it was just great to be with he and my daughter, enjoying both the time and the food, as well as bringing back some goodies for Maureen and Katelyn in the room. I knew the weekend was off to a good start.
The thing with memories is they can not be directly replicated. My memories, even those from the exact same place as Maureen, will not be exactly the same as the way she remembers it. This is true for all of us, so even though, I went to our first apartment with my kids after the Cubs game on Friday, they don’t have my memories of this apartment. Their visit and this picture that captured it are their first memory of this place. I can tell them stories from when Maureen and I lived here, but I can’t put our memories directly into their minds. I can only tell our stories to them and let them add it to their experience. (This is an important distinction from a meme.)
The same was true of the Cubs game I went to with the kids on Friday, and the Northwestern game we went to as a family on Saturday. Maureen and I have done both these things in the past, separately and together, but until these two games, we did not have shared memories. We had memories we were telling to our kids. Now we have memories with our kids. Those are really powerful, because we had so much fun. It wasn’t just parents and kids. It was five people experiencing pure joy with each other… did we bicker some… of course, we did. We’re a family, but we were together, which brings me back to the concept of memes, distinct from memories.
The most important meme we wanted to share with our children was love. There were two powerful moments in the weekend, one planned and one unplanned, that manifested this meme, not just for them, but for Maureen and I, too. God was present in both cases. In the first, we returned to St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Evanston, Illinois for services on Sunday, where Maureen and I were married on July 14, 1990. The new reverend, Charles de Kay, and I had been in contact, and he graciously included us in the order of service for a blessing. The coolest part of this was the fact that my 13 year old daughter is the one that suggested we do this… a reflection from her “love mirror.” It was a precious opportunity to stand in front of God, once again, and profess our love in His presence, recalling a sacred act from 24 years ago, as well as creating a new act, this time with our 3 children.
The second moment of God’s presence was unplanned. It will forever be etched in each of our memories, because I know that in the moment in happened, we were each given a glimpse of heaven, if only for an instant. We were walking through Millennium Park on Friday. Our most important goal was to see “The Bean.” For those that know our family, they know Kyla (our 13 year old)’s nickname is the bean. We got some great pictures of the skyline and of the park, capturing those memories, however, it is the meme of love that is etched in our hearts forever.
As we turned a corner in the park, we came across a beautiful little walkway by a wishing pond, that carried you in to a butterfly garden, with some truly lovely flowers and landscaping. At this wishing pond, I instinctively reached into my pocket and grabbed five pennies. Simultaneously, we each threw our pennies into the pond, making our own wish, each knowing that it was the same wish, for healing for Maureen (my wife, their mommy, her parents’ daughter, the oldest Diercxsen sister, Delta Gamma sorority sister, architect, book club member, swing sister and so many more precious friendships and relationships she represents from her “love mirror.”)
Literally seconds after flipping our pennies in to the pond, my phone rang. I looked down. It was MD Anderson Cancer Center. Whether or not we pursue the specific clinical trial we discussed at that moment on the phone is the least important part of the meme. In that moment, from wish (prayer) to God’s ears, we pierced the veil of heaven as a family. God gave us a peek in to His eternal love for us. He told my children, and Maureen and I, in a way more powerful than our act inside of His church on Sunday, that He is with us always. He didn’t send a dove, but He did send a butterfly into the garden, captured beautifully by my youngest, Katelyn, and connected with us through His meme, love. At Maureen and my wedding 24 years ago, we read this passage:
1 Corninthians 13:13
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
As I looked up this passage just now at BibleGateway.com, I was struck by the verse right before it, which jumps out at me now, like it will you.
1 Corinthians 13:12
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.