I scrolled furiously through my contacts on my phone yesterday, anticipating I’d need to call a priest pronto. One of the priests who is our “go-to guy” for immediate needs also volunteers at the hospital, so he’s a handy person to catch on short notice.
Alas, I did not have his number in my phone. So, I added his name, church number, and cell phone number. Then, because the immediacy of that need had passed, I started looking at some other contacts in my phone. I changed the number of a colleague who had moved, and updated his address. I deleted some old email addresses, and whittled down some multiple contact listings. Then, I deleted a cousin’s name. I paused; did I really want to delete her? She had died a few weeks ago. And I was saddened by that.
I deleted a few more folks; others who had died, or with whom I’m not in contact anymore.
Deleting a contact seems like such a permanent and sad manner of editing. A contact list is not just information; it represents a relationship. And once I delete the contact, it’s gone. (Well, tech savvy folks will tell you nothing is ever “gone.” Remember that when you’ve lost a document you sweated over, and you certainly feel like it’s gone forever).
In former days, this would have been one’s “address book.” Now, we have directories, mostly online resources that one needs to remember a password to gain access. Speaking of remembering, or forgetting, those silly passwords need a black book of their own.
Keeping the contact list updated with addresses, both geographical addresses and online ones, can be a chore. As we all know, it’s a necessity of life. It represents so much about those to whom we’re connected and about changes in life.
My list of contacts has so many duplicates, which, when I think about it, certainly doesn’t reflect the level of attachment to a particular person (sorry, folks). It’s one of those things that gets “populated” depending on some little brain that the contact program has and does all on its own. (Can you tell how technological savvy I am?!)
Deleting some contacts altogether made me wonder about my part in staying in touch, and how much effort it takes to be connected to some people. Conversely, there are many contacts for whom all parties simply pick up where we left off, knowing that the webs of connections fluctuate. Some contacts are more than favorites; they’re lifelines. The relationship perseveres, or perhaps is preserved simply, mysteriously.
The people represented by my contact list are my “web,” or network. And even then, my network is greater than that. I was thinking about a caption I’d placed on a family picture recently, noting that we had succeeded in getting the “whole family together, even the dogs.” But, in reality, this was not true. The whole family is so much more than that picture. We left out aunts, uncles, cousins; we left out a few dogs, even! And what about all the family members who are no longer with us, or, who “left” the family? So many people have influenced me, affected me; so many people have been part of my outlook on the world. And that’s just my pair of eyes looking at the network of people.
What is “the whole family” if not the communion of saints? I think of the communion of saints every time I celebrate communion, often, one-to-one, with a hospital patient. We are not alone, I remind them. There are hosts of angels and saints who engage in this sacrament with us. The host includes the faithful from all times and places. The communion we celebrate as a sacrament is a communion beyond bread and cup, and more cosmic even than Jesus’ body and blood. It is Jesus’ body that is the church, always and everywhere.
That body, that reality, this communion cannot, thankfully, be deleted.