I saw him walk by me with them on. I noticed they were brand new and had to have only been worn a few times. I smiled on the inside when I saw them. I know the mixed emotions it brings to wear something that belonged to someone you cherished. I was silent, fully aware that this was one of those moments that breaks your heart and starts a piece of healing at the same time. Sometimes it happens to come in unsuspecting forms, even shoes.
I smile when he shows me the shoes on his feet Sunday morning. “What do you think? he said. I reply “Oh yes, they are nice ones” I don’t let him know that I have noticed these shoes long before now. I wondered if he would ever wear them? Some folks are funny about wearing things that belonged to someone who had passed on. For me, it was my mother’s Old Navy gray t-shirt. It was just a shirt, but it was hers nonetheless and I loved wearing it. It was comfortable. I am pretty sure that my husband wasn’t wierded out by his Dad’s shoes, but I still know enough about this part of life to know that he never took a step in them Sunday morning that he didn’t think about him. In time, they will just be a great pair of comfortable shoes, but this day, even I was preoccupied with the “shoes.”
The shoes have no magical qualities. They will not lead my husband down any divinely directed path, metaphorically. They are just shoes. Shoes that for now, trigger memories. He has had plenty of time to watch his Dad’s steps, learn from his mistakes, and rejoice in his victories. We learn from our parents through the good and bad. As time goes on, we hold these truths in a sacred place, continuing to process the influences they have had on our lives.
I am sure that my father-in-law was glad that his shoes made it to church another Sunday, since that was a huge part of who he was. Just like the shoes and ourselves, we are none perfect and have no magic tricks to lead us toward the right paths, but the shoes reminded me of something different today. The shoes were practically brand new, just like my father-in-laws’ new home, brand new like the grace of God that we receive new every morning. The shoes represented the paths that we choose and the consequences we have from our decisions. They reminded me of the Sunday school song.. “Oh, be careful little feet, where you go”…
My prayer is that with every step, they soften his grief. May every time he slips them on, good memories replace the others. I hope that he feels a little more peace with each time he ties the laces. Yes, they are only shoes…. but I am confident in the way that God uses the things around us to impress our hearts.
What will you allow him to use to speak to you today?
Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go; I will fix mine eyes upon thee.”