I’m not quite sure of what happened to the month of June. Lots of family and friend events filled our calendar. Some very special people continued bouts with serious illnesses, and some others moved on to eternal life. In each case, time with those concerned was certainly well spent. We also hosted our granddaughters for two overnight visits, much to our pleasure and our fatigue. When July 1st arrived, Mike and I looked at each other and remarked in unison, “We need a rest!’ With that, Mike ignored our observation and headed off to the health club. I, on the other hand, decided to heed this advice by taking advantage of the quiet house and enjoying my annual viewing of Forrest Gump. My poor family has endured this rerun –and you have endured reading about it– almost every year since the film played in theatres in 1994. Though I claim this to be so because the screenplay is definitely a classic, I especially enjoy the many news clips from actual events that appear as the story unfolds.
I suppose I watch Forrest Gump as I prepare for July 4 each year because, like the movie, our Independence Day observances conjure up recurring memories that will never escape me. My earliest recollections include our family’s quest for the nearest fireworks display. This was particularly important and particularly difficult July 4, 1959. My dad passed away early that morning. Helpful family members assisted my mom by whisking us kids away for the day to attend our annual family picnic. I have no doubt that my aunts and uncles wondered if fireworks would be at all appropriate that night. While I don’t recall most of that day’s events, I do recall finding great solace in the fireworks displays I’ve observed every year since. The glittering lights that burst in the night sky suggest resurrection to me. My father’s passing into eternal life must have been a million times more glorious. While the flashing sprays above me dissolve into smoke and ash, I know my father’s transformation continues on –forever. Each time I watch Forrest Gump, I share in Forrest’s wonder as he watches the Bicentennial Fireworks of 1976. The Statue of Liberty fills his tiny television screen with all of her glory. Fireworks of every color form a sparkling halo around her head. Though this particular clip is quite short, the glimpse of Lady Liberty and her spectacular backdrop sets off fireworks in my mind that linger for days.
Of course, it isn’t just the fireworks that draw me in. The Statue of Liberty is another fascination that I share with Forrest Gump. Forrest found great comfort and peace in his ability to love and care for others, and this mighty green statue speaks to those things. Lady Liberty first inspired me when I was in high school. I sang with a chorus which performed for special programs. One of our selections was drawn from The New Colossus, a poem by Emma Lazarus which is inscribed within the base beneath Lady Liberty. The poem closes with “…Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Patriotism was not so much in vogue when I sang those words in the sixties. Yet, even then, I could not stop the fullness in my heart that swelled every time these words passed my lips. I experienced those feelings in stereo when I stood at Lady Liberty’s feet a few years ago. As I read today’s scriptures to prepare for this writing, I knew I simply had to share what Forrest Gump and I have been up to once again.
In Matthew’s gospel (11:25-30), Jesus extends this invitation: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Perhaps I’m so taken with Lady Liberty because she proclaims quite vividly God’s longing to draw us close and to be on hand whenever we need God’s help. Perhaps I’m so taken with fireworks because they are a vivid reminder of the things that await us in God’s everlasting home. Perhaps I’m so taken with Forrest Gump because his simple heart remained ever-open to the possibilities this life offers day after day. Perhaps I’m so taken with Jesus’ words today because they touch my own aching heart with God’s generosity –which is everything I can possibly hope for and more.
©2011 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved