I have recently been sorting through some of my mom’s belongings. She has been in a memory care facility now for over a year, and it seems there is no turning back the clock. It is ironic that I sit here and write about the power of memory while she struggles to remember the recent past. Yet, even with that deficiency, there is something in her that remembers the things dear to her. Her fire, her spirit, her love, her family – the details may be fuzzy, but the recognition eventually comes around (or the recognition that we are speaking of something dear and important). It is hard to watch, but in a way her loss of memory is a blessing. It is a freeing from the burden of understanding what is lost.
For me, the loss of her faculties offers many trips down memory lane. Every time I go to her house to get one step closer to an estate sale and eventual selling of the home, I find something else that triggers my own memories. Whether it is an old shirt of my dad’s that is still lying around, photos of years gone by, music or movies we watched, books whose pages we wore thin, jewelry I tried to claim as my own as a starry-eyed and sassy little girl – so many memories were made that now keep the vibrancy of my parents alive. They remind me of a time when life was easier for me, of how loved I was.
The same holds true for our eternal memory. I was privileged to lead a group on a pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008. At our home diocesan Mass for Detroit, Bishop Daniel Flores (whose kind, gentle, yet challenging leadership I dearly miss) shared with us his reflections on what he saw around him at the time. So many people with their cameras and phones out taking pictures so they could one day remember their experience, but those same people missing out on letting themselves fully experience the moment and allowing that to become the memory.
He referenced the clip from Elizabethtown (and later The Office) where the character takes a mental picture by clicking an imaginary camera every time something memorable occurred. In his encouragement, there was such great wisdom. We are so busy planning and doing and saving things for later, that sometimes moments become fuzzy memories, even if we have the perfect snapshot.
As we approach the feast of Saint Martha on July 29th (with whom I very much relate!), I see a similar wisdom in her exchange with Jesus. So often we scurry about making sure every detail is taken care of – for our families, for our friends, for work, even for our faith and our church – we forget to just be present with the ones who are with us, to make memories as well as menus. Our preparation is good and holy work, but we forget to take that deep, restoring breath. We don’t sit with one another, with Jesus, with the Word which offers us to an eternal memory connecting us to our very Creator.
Part of the guidance Bishop Flores offered us included his best rendition of James Earl Jones as Mufasa. “Remember.” Remember who you are, whose you are. Some nine years later I still remember these words, not because I recorded them, or took a picture, or hurriedly took notes. Rather, I remember them because I sat with them as they were proclaimed, I let them enter my soul slowly and deliberately. I let those words be present and alive, and a memory was etched in my heart.
So it is as I go down memory lane. Often it isn’t the visual that triggers the memory – it is a smell, a sound, the feel of something that takes me down a rabbit hole to the days of my childhood. If we could but make that happen with the Word, with the living Christ, especially for those times when life threatens to make us forget the truth about ourselves, how awesome would that be? I’m so thrilled to have resources out there like Take Up and Read and Blessed Is She that have given us a chance to enter in to the experience of the Word together as women – to create those lasting memories around what God has told us and shown us and done for us. I pray I am able to help my own children to “remember,” to stop scurrying enough to be still and soak in the experience of their childhood, to make lasting memories that become part of their DNA, that tell them the truth about who they are – made in the image and likeness of God our Creator – that sustain them when their world begins to crumble.
I hope the smell of the pages of a book remind them of the many they read with their dad, the nights they spend reading Scripture together, of all the things we have taught them about Jesus. I pray the sound of a certain song helps them to remember the nights I spent trying to calm them to sleep, the hymns we sang in praise and worship and joy and hope. Most of all, I hope they know how much they were and are loved by us, and more than us, by Jesus who loved them to eternity and back.
How do you make memories with your family? What memories from your own life stand out to you and why?
Copyright 2017 Rakhi McCormick