Memory is an interesting thing. Think back to your earliest memories. Some will be vivid and we might struggle to understand why particular events or scenes are so etched into our consciousness. Memory isn’t always neat and logical, but it enables us to see beyond the immediate – the memory of a good holiday might cheer us on a grey day; memories of friends and loved ones enable us to develop relationships when we see them again. Imagine how strange it would be if every time we met people we had to learn again who they are and what they are like.
Sometimes we prefer not to remember. Erasing traumatic memories is one way our minds cope with some of the unpleasant things that happen. But even when we have the capacity to remember, we sometimes prefer not to – believing that if we can erase the memories, we can erase the pain of what we’ve lost. But memory is a gift to us, it’s that part of a loved one or friend that can’t be taken, keeping them safe and available to be drawn on.
Of course, we have more than memories to sustain us, we have God. While our friends might only be with us through memory and recollection, God is always present. Coming together to remember, and doing so in God’s presence, is powerful. For some of us, the pain of loss might be so great that we struggle to believe that we have anything to thank God for. But God has given us the capacity to remember, and God invites us to use memories to discover that even in struggle and pain we can find cause to be thankful. As we express our thanks, so we begin to discover God’s presence, giving us strength and healing.
Sometimes our acts of remembrance are tinged with a sense of guilt, wondering if we could have done more, wishing we might have made more of our parting, perhaps feeling guilty that we have survived when others haven’t. God invites us to remember so that we can be embraced with love and mercy and released from guilt.
Remembering often isn’t easy. That’s why for generations people have come together in acts of remembrance, supporting and helping one another. Let’s use the memories of the past to find God in the present. Let’s not be afraid to shed tears, or express anger and despair to God. God doesn’t demand that we come in a state of polite composure, but through remembering; sharing our stories; laughing and crying together; we will find the strength for each new challenge. Remembering loved ones may be painful, but forgetting them or allowing others to forget them would be a greater tragedy. So as we remember, let’s pray that by God’s grace we might reach that place where we can look back and say, “I thank God, every time I remember you.”
The Rev. Laura J Hermakin
Windermere Valley Shared Ministry