I amassed hundreds of vinyl 33 ⅓ record albums before CDs took over. Still have them, along with a record player that I could probably get to work again. I’m proud to say that I own every album the Kingston Trio ever recorded. John Stewart and Bob Dylan, too. But I just acquired them for their music, not to add to an intentional “collection.” I’m not quite as proud of my Bette Midler or Baja Marimba Band albums, even though the Bajas were much better than the Tijuana Brass, in my opinion. I also had some TJB. And if anyone who bought records in those days denies that they did too, don’t believe them.
I do have several photos, articles, films and videos from my playing and coaching days, but those are in our house and garage mostly because my sentimental wife, Cindy, is … well, sentimental. She collects memories. And hearts. When I really think about it, those two are pretty much the same thing.
Cindy and our then 4-year-old granddaughter, Maile Rose, counted 143 hearts in our house last year. Heart drawings, paintings, keychains, mirrors, carved stone, pillows, mugs, T-shirts, necklaces, earrings and heartshaped things I can’t even describe. But each heart means something to Cindy. She can remember where she was when she happened upon every one of them. Each heart says something about her longing for this world to be a better place and the promise that the world that follows our final breath, through faith in Jesus Christ, WILL be better. It will be gloriously better beyond our grandest expectations after we no longer “see through a glass dimly.”
Hearts and photos. Those are what take Cindy to the place where things are beautiful. Personally, I don’t mind them. In fact, I especially appreciate having the photographs— but if it were only up to me, I wouldn’t have collected hearts OR snapped so many pictures. I’m not wired like that, but I’m sure glad that Cindy is.
Life zips by, making snapshots all the more of a treasure to me as time eliminates the possibility of ever reproducing those moments. Cindy even kept some pictures of me dunking a basketball. We KNOW that will never happen again! Even special people and special times can seem ordinary and be easily taken for granted in the present. I am the worst person I know in regard to “preserving the moments” because I tend to “live for the moment.” Cindy has taught me the importance of taking a few seconds out of irretrievable time in order to capture the fun and joy and history of our surroundings. She is also quick to remind me that we once missed a photo op as we talked with Joe DiMaggio at a charity tennis tournament, in case I needed any more motivation to cooperate with her passion in the future. And we also once passed on a chance to see Elvis in concert. True, it was during his jumpsuit phase, but still....
It’s not the missed celebrity photos or concerts that sting the most. It’s the relationship-cementing opportunities and shared memories we can tend to squander that we can’t get back. Family. Friends. Co-workers. It’s those “ties that bind” that matter. In the Homecoming video on the career of the Isaacs, Bill Gaither was deeply touched by their version of “The Living Years.” The song is about relationships, reconciliation and irretrievable loss. With the profound lyrics and beauty of the song, and their incredible voices still in the air, Bill simply said, “Make the call.” In the context of it all, Bill was gently admonishing each of us to put aside our pride and stubbornness over hurt feelings and misunderstandings in order to extend an olive branch toward restoring any relationships that might have become distant. To humbly take the first step. And to do it before it’s too late!
Cindy’s photographs remind us of the “calls” we’ve made as well as received from loved ones. And because life just isn’t perfect, and we all fail, the hearts remind us to “make the call.”
Paul Westphal is a 12-year NBA player and five-time All-Star who was the head coach for the Phoenix Suns, Seattle Sonics, and Sacramento Kings.