There’s quite a bit of discussion going on in our area about a local train that used to travel from the northern suburbs of Indianapolis into the city. It’s not in regular service anymore, but until several years ago, it ran during the annual State Fair. It carried passengers to and from the fair and even though it was located several miles east of us, you could hear the whistle of the train each day when it made its return to the Fishers station several times a day. But now, there is a plan to remove all the tracks and create a linear park instead.
What makes this so noteworthy is that Indianapolis doesn’t have a regular train line that transports passengers to work places downtown. This is different than most cities and much different from the neighborhood that we grew up in on the south side of Chicago. So when the tracks are finally removed, it will spell the end of any possible experience for people to ride the rails locally.
Of course, each year, I looked forward to hearing the train whistle in the distance. However, I always considered that whistle such a lonely and forlorn sound, so much so that it was odd that I looked forward to it. And when I was a little kid, I recall laying in bed at night on the south side of Chicago and hearing the long, low sound of the Rock Island Railroad train whistles in the distance. I used to dream about Dad being on that train – either going to or returning from work in downtown Chicago. He took the train almost every day…
In any event, the whistle has always been a familiar sound, whether I am comforted by it or not. And that’s where tonight’s story goes next. Because I headed up to the southwestern Chicago suburbs on Monday night to work with a client that I have served for several years. One of the benefits that I enjoy is the ability to spend time with my brother, Doug, and we have loved our evenings together during my assignment in the area.
We have watched Cubs games together as they approach the end of this season and it brings back memories of watching games with our Dad when we were children. In fact, when the Cubs were in the World Series two years ago, we actually went to a game together in honor of Dad.
We have also been going through old photos together – pictures of people that we haven’t seen in many years. It just seems that we have been recollecting the past. I love life now, but there was some recognition that the “good old days” from the distant past are just memories and there is no way short of heaven that we will ever get them back. Of course, so many people are no longer with us.
In a way, I was a little sad, and even a little lonely, when I finally went up to bed on Monday evening. As I was falling asleep, it happened. Yes… a train whistle in the distance. I assume that it was a freight train rather a passenger train but that didn’t make any difference. The weather was rainy and getting cooler and in the midst of it all, I was thinking about the engineer in the cab of the engine, heading through the darkness – maybe even alone – toward some distant destination.
But it was the perfect end to an evening filled with memories of the past. I fell asleep and in the morning, Doug and I had our morning coffee together as we usually do when I stay with him.
Our verse for the evening is from the Gospel of Mark. Jesus had healed a man and instructed him to not tell anyone. However, the man told the community about being healed and from that time on, the Scripture tells us that Jesus had to remove Himself from busy places. In fact, Mark tells us, in Mark 1:45, “… Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places… Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.” So even Jesus experienced loneliness at times.
My encouragement this evening is that God reminds us of memories and they are precious to us as they have helped define who we have become throughout the years. Even though there are times that we end up being lonely, there is something cathartic about remembering the past and those have gone home before us. My prayer is that you will be comforted by your memories and that God will bless you abundantly. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…