Gilead is a book from the point of view of a character named John Ames who is old and dying. The whole story is him writing to his very young son about life. This series of posts is about the notes my own father made in a copy of the novel before his passing. For more background, feel free to read the past posts in this series:
You read the dreams of an anxious, fuddled old man, and I live in a light better than any dream of mine–not waiting for you, though, because I want your dear perishable self to live long and to love this poor perishable world, which I somehow cannot imagine not missing bitterly, even while I do long to see what it will mean to have wife and child restored to me, I mean Louisa and Rebecca. I have wondered about that for many years. Well, this old seed is about to drop into the ground. Then I’ll know.
How many times do we long for heaven but feel the urge to remain here on earth? I don’t mean looking back at civilization as Lot’s wife turning her head and becoming a pillar of salt. The narrator loves this world because of the people he loves. After reading the whole book, I think it would be safe to infer he also loves the beauty in all aspects of God’s creation.
But why did my dad mark this passage? I wish I could ask him. What I wouldn’t give to ask him. Did he feel “fuddled”? Old age is not something I look forward to. My dad was almost 70 when he passed–that doesn’t seem incredibly old to me. At one time, yes, that would have been ancient. But not now.
It’s safe to assume he wanted his children to live long. Did he want us to love this poor perishable world? I’m racking my brain over how he’d answer that question. I think he’d tell me to be happy–but I can’t imagine him telling be to love the world. He was a cop and D.A. investigator for over thirty years. He knew the bad parts of the world too well to tell me to love it. I guess I’m a little surprised he marked this passage. It’s possible he didn’t agree with that part.
Three pages later he underlined the Scripture reference of Matthew 18:10, which reads:
Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.
On the pages this verse is found the narrator does a beautiful job describing what it’s like to hold a baby. The narrator says, “Many, Many people have found comfort in that verse.” Apparently, my dad did as well.