Praying with My Address Book
When I went to address my Christmas cards this past year, I noticed how shabby my old address book was. After all, it’s about 20 years old. So I decided to buy a new one.
Both my old and new address books are about the same size: 5” X 8”. My old address book is dark blue. My new one is black. I would have preferred a green or red or floral one, but the store had only black. I have a hunch the store doesn’t sell too many address books in this age of computers.
My old address book is very disorderly. Every page has addresses or phone numbers crossed out. Some people have moved three or four times since I first entered their names. I think I bought this address book when I lived in Detroit—which means I too have moved several times since I bought it. A number of individuals in the book have died: my beloved parents, my dear brother John, several aunts and uncles, a few friends. It’s going to be hard when I don’t transfer their names and addresses into the new book—just one more tangible and painful reminder that they are really gone.
There are a few names in the book that have been in my address book since I first started keeping one. How lucky I am to have such friends and family members who have walked so much of this earthly journey with me no matter where we have lived. There are a couple of people in the book that I haven’t heard from in years. I fear some have died. Others have just drifted away. Not all friends walk the entire journey with us. Some walk only part of the way. And that’s okay.
My old address book is stuffed with slips of paper, return labels, business cards, and sticky notes of all kinds and colors. I’ll have to sort through them when I transfer the names to my new book. Hopefully my new address book with be much neater than the old one—until I make the first inevitable change of address or phone number in it. Or until I slip in a return address label, telling myself to remember to copy it into the book—and forgetting to do so.
Many people today don’t have address books, I know. They store all such information on their computers. I too have some names and addresses on my computer. But I still prefer to have a real old-fashioned address book—something I can hold in my hand, something I can keep on a shelf or in a drawer, something that doesn’t require electricity in order for me to use it, and something the younger members of my family might leaf through after I die, wondering if there’s anyone in it they should notify of my demise. Like many people my age, I straddle two worlds—the slower, more comfortable old-fashioned era and the racing, more frantic post-modern tech era. (From my choice of words, you can detect my leaning.)
When I write the names and addresses in my new address book, I plan to do so prayerfully. I will thank God for each person individually. And I will thank God for all the people who don’t get transferred into the new book too. Then I’ll thank God for all the human connections that make life so rich and meaningful. And I will remind myself that all earthly addresses are, in the long run, only temporary. In the end we will all dwell together in love at the same eternal heavenly address.
Do you have an address book? If so, what does it look like? Did you ever think to pray with it?
Thank you for sharing that Sr Melannie! I re-started an “old-fashioned” pen and paper address book in 2007, probably after a computer crash. I read that in the computer age, we just delete an address or even a person, but with pen or pencil, we can see the history.
My mom and dad are both gone too, but never deleted from my heart!
Your blogs really touch my heart. Thank you!
Joan Campagna….at 47, I straddle both worlds too.
Dear Joan, Yes, one computer crash will force you to revert back to some of those “old fashioned” ways…I liked your comment that your dear parents, though gone, will never be deleted from your heart. Well said! Thanks again for writing, Joan! Sr. Melannie
I too, straddle both worlds. I have a paper copy of all the contact lists from clubs and organizations that my family and I’ve belonged to over the years and this has served me well many times when I’ve needed to get ahold of so-and-so that used to be in Tommy’s preschool class, etc. But our “master list” is on our computer which fried last year right before it was time to send out Christmas Cards! Luckily we were able to retrieve it later but not many people got Christmas Cards from us that year!
There is something special about keeping paper copies of things and being able to visually “see” the names on the worn paper. I love that you will be praying for your friends and family as you transfer their names to the new book. What an inspiration you are! God Bless and Happy 2013!
Dear Dawn, I’m glad to hear you straddle both worlds too! Being a writer, I almost always make a hard copy of everything I write–for the very reason you write about: your computer frying! Thanks for visiting my blog–and blessing on you for 2013! Sr. Melannie
I think you and I have the exact same address book! Mine is falling apart and literally held together with a rubber band. I too have post it notes, post cards, return address labels in addition to cards I bought and meant to send and still hope to; my alphabetized tabs are falling off-so why am I so hesitant to get rid of it? For the same reasons you touched on-it holds not only information but memories, hand written notes, many, many changes of address and a few scribbles from my daughters when they managed to get a hold of it when they were younger and I wasn’t looking! I am being dragged, kicking and screaming I might add, into the new technological era. I see some benefits to it certainly, but mourn the loss of pencil-to-paper notes, “snail mail” and the tangible papers/notes held in hand as opposed to messages in cyberspace and on disk drives. I too hope to transfer to a new address book with the new year (and hope to find the same format-I’m a creature of habit!) and with your wonderful suggestion, I plan to pray over all those from the old, worn and well-used book from many years ago. Thank you for your thoughts-I have signed up for your weekly email and look forward to reading more! Colleen Smith (fellow straddler at 46!)
Dear Colleen, We must be kindred spirits! I loved your description of your address book! And I was touched by the “few scribbles” from your daughters. How precious! We both might be resisting the technological era, but hey–I write a blog and you not only have read it, you signed up for it! So we’re doing something right! Thanks again for writing! And welcome! Sr. Melannie
I also keep a paper phone book. There are no e-mail addresses listed in that book, just street address and phone numbers. It was last year when I finally bought a new book. I too lost my parents, brother and many very good friends and yes it was very difficult transferring names and not including them. However, I am confident that God has already begun to fill the gap left by my loss. Although, they will never be replaced. Thre are such wonderful memories and stories associated with each of them that I could hear them laughing out loud in heaven. I actually kept my old book. I am not sure why, but I learned a long time to listen to that inner voice which I refer to as the Holy Spirit.
Dear Pat, Thank you for your comment! And my sympathy to you on the losses you have experienced–especially the ones you were reminded of when you didn’t transfer their addresses and phone numbers into your new book. Yes, our loved ones will never be replaced. But God keeps sending other people into our lives to love and to be loved by..Keep listening to that “inner voice.” And blessings on your new year! Sr. Melannie
I ,too, have more than one address book. I kept the old because I didn’t want to remove the names of those gone. So now I have a special page at the back of the new book that I write their names and the date they died. Whenever I get the book out, I can remember them in prayer by just going down the list. I always love your writings. They are so down to earth and from the heart.
Dear Julie, I like your idea of keeping track of the dates on which our loved ones died. As I said to one other writer, their death date is really their new “birthday” into eternal life…Thank you for your kind words about my writing. I always appreciate your encouragement, Julie! Melannie
Yes! I like to have an address book! It just seems so much warmer and I guess “comfortable.” When it gets so that the little torn return addresses start falling our and I can hardly decipher a person’s real address, I know
its time to re-do. A few years ago I found a small loose leaf address book.
So now I just can pull out the offending pages.
What a good idea–to pray for the people I must eliminate and those I must
rewrite. Thanks for the excellent ides!
Dear James, I like the idea of having an address book with loose leaf pages. I wish I would have seen that kind before I bought this new one. Maybe next time….(But if my old address book lasted 20 years, I suspect this address book might be my last….) Take care! Melannie
Melannie, love your blog today. Yesterday I was doing the same, cleaning out my address book. It is so old and now I am looking for a new one. It takes time to do this but I like the thought you had about prayerfully putting the names in the new book. You are so real when you write Melannie… Gift…
Dear Mo, It’s fascinating that you just happened to be cleaning out your address book too. We’re so like-minded! Thanks for writing, Mo! melannie
I am new to your blog and I love it already! What an interesting
perspective on an address book. Thank you
Dear Linda, Thank you for visiting my blog for the first time. I hope you come often. And thank you for responding! God bless you! Sr. Melannie
Not only do I have an address book (sounding as tattered as yours), I also keep my calendars from year to year. Its like a journal… parties, meetings, medical appointments, vacations, etc. When I glance back at the ones I have saved over the years I see all the running I did with our three kids… where did I get all the energy?! I also have a contact list on my computer with an email reminder for birthdays… when I lose a dear friend or relative I can’t bear to delete their names. When I get those email reminders, it brings those loved ones to mind and all the fond memories associated with them.
Thanks for sharing and love and peace in the New Year!
Dear “Cuz,” I too keep my pocket calendars from year to year. I’m not sure why. If I were you, I’d be saving them for my kids and grandkids. I think they would find them precious–especially the old calendars with all those notes about your kids! I also write the birthdays of all my loved ones (living and deceased) on my calendar at the beginning of a new year–and their death days too. After all, their death dates are their new “birthdays” into eternal life! Thanks again for writing, Kathy! Love, your cousin Dolly
Thank you for your powerful insights. This one really got to me. My address book is gone with addresses in the 3 computer programs, Google, Outlook, card programs. Not in one place.
But I do have my mother’s address book which she handled with such tenderness and devotion. She had everyone’s address in our family and in my lifetime, she only transferred once. She died 9 years ago at 89 and had the book for about 10 and when I see it or touch it, I have her presence. Gosh, are mothers important in our lives. I wonder what my children will keep of mine if anything.
Dear Nancy, Guess what? I have my mother’s address book too! For now, I can’t bear to part with it–for some of the same reasons you gave–especially sensing her presence when I see and touch it. I also love having a sample of her handwriting. It’s distinct and beautiful. My Mom died almost 7 years ago at the age of 90…You raise the question: what will your children keep of yours? I hope they keep your sensitivity and devotion….Thanks again for writing! Sr. Melannie
My wife and I have a large family address book that looks like many others descrbed with cross-outs and write-ins and different colors. It has a lot of character and remains our address book for snail mail. Our computer is mainly used to record e-mail addresses.
Considering that those who have left this earth have reached their eternal home, maybe there could be an old, a new and a book of saints where the names of those who no longer have an earthly address are recorded with the dates of their change of address.
For me personally, an address book is also a prayer book for lifting up family and friends as the Spirit moves me or the need arises.
Thank you for your reflection, calling to mind, another way to connect our family and friends with our loving God.
Dear Larry, Thank you for your response. I liked your comment about recording the dates our deceased loved ones “change their address” to the heavenly one! Good idea! And I also liked it when you said an address book “is also a prayer book for lifting up family and friends.” I’m reminded of what St. Ignatius said: “Everything that turns one in the direction of God is prayer.” Since Ignatius wrote thousands of letters in his life time, he must have had a thick address book! …Thanks for commenting on my blog! Sr. Melannie
I always look forward to Mondays and your reflections.
In them I find a profound initimacy with Christ…thank you for sharing them … they are a blessing
Dear Marian, And thank you for following my blog and for responding. I appreciate both actions! Have a good 2013! Sr. Melannie
Like so many others, I too have an old, old, address book. I have started to redo it (don’t know if I can still get the proper pages to put into it) but I have quite a few blank pages to start with. I intended to keep my deceased friends name in the new book with the abbrevition dec. after their name – however I like Julie’s idea of putting all the deceased at the back of the book. Thanks Julie. During the Christmas holidays I just sat and looked through my address book and yes it does bring back many happy memories. Thanks so much for writing this article it is so nice to know that others feel as I do.
Maggie’s friend and yours,
Sister Miriam Denis
Dear Miriam Denis, It’s good hearing from you again. Yes, I liked Julie’s idea too! Thanks for writing! Sr. Melannie
What a lovely post! I have switched over to a digital address book, but I keep my old ones. I also have my grandmother’s old address book – such a treasure to see her handwriting and the names of all the people she had in her life. Every once in a while I stumble across these old books and spend a few precious moments remembering and praying.
Thank you for sharing!
Dear Chandra, How nice it is that you can take a few minutes to remember and pray using your old address books and your grandmother’s. That’s great! So many ordinary, simple things can turn our hearts to God. Thank you for writing! Sr. Melannie
Was thinking the same thing about my address book – I’ve had a new one in my drawer for two years! I realize that no matter when I begin the new one, after leaving St. John’s or move into another parish, there will still be changes . . . it’s about holding on, moving on, treasuring the old and opening up to the new. Thanks for the reflection Melannie.
You always manage to bring magic to the ordinary! Pat
Dear Pat, I like what you said: “It’s about holding on, moving on, treasuring the old and opening up to the new.” This is one of the fundamental tensions of our lives, isn’t it? It challenges us to choose what to keep and what to discard, what to cling to and what to let go of…Hopefully we can make good, life-giving decisions. Thanks for your comment, Pat! Melannie
A recent new comer to your blog-and look forward to it in the coming months. At a young age I married and moved to the east coast from a small town in Wisconsin. Over the many years there have been a few address books and even when I create a new one I can’t part with the old and looking back at names and places is my history. So many friends and family and loved ones now gone, or moved on and some still there after years and years, new street names, new towns, their children and the children’s children. I love the idea of the prayers. I also straddle both worlds, I have a list on the computer and especially at Christmas put the return addresses in a pile to compare what is in the computer and be sure it is updated. In this new year I am sure names will be added and sadly some will be taken off.
Dear Barbara, Welcome to my blog! Your words made me realize again how an old address book can reflect our personal history. Thank you for resppnding! Your fellow “straddler of two worlds,” Sr. Melannie
Ican relate to your address book as mine is the same way. God Bless.
Thanks for stopping by, Donna! God bless you too! Sr. Melannie
This is so good. Recently I needed to give a phone number to a family member, I said “here it is in the address book” well the “B” section is very popular in our family, as my sister looked at it she asked WHERE! I knew where it was, nobody else would never know but it is something I treasure, a blown up mess. I called my brother last week to ask if he still had our parents Address Book from forever, he brought it to me yesterday, how meaningful it is to me. It teaches me how the simple little things are appreciated, nothing elaborate just close to my heart.
Thank you for writing Praying with my Address Book so meaningful.
Dear Bridget, Thank you for your beautiful response! Yes, the address book from our parents can be a real treasure. I really agree with you: how the simple things are “appreciated” and “close to the heart.” Thanks again! Sr. Melannie