Sunday, February 12, 2012

Memories

I have a good memory. My parents tell me that when I was little I could quote several pages from a Bible story book they read to me. I was around 3 or 4 years old, and there were over 600 words in that story. I have always found it easy to memorize things-The Gettysburg Address, Romans 8, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, the book of Philippians…not that I could still quote any of these word for word, but at one time I could. I am good at remembering numbers, I can retell entire scenes of movies after seeing them only once, and I seldom forget a book I have read.  You get the idea. I’m not trying to brag on myself. It’s not like I made myself this way. My mom made up a song when I was little that went “Jesus made you special…He gave you a good memory.” It’s true. The Lord is the one who gave me this memory. And I'm not saying I never forget things. I am terrible with names…TERRIBLE. I can remember scripture verses, but I have a really hard time committing their references to memory. And no matter how hard I try, I CANNOT remember how to walk down-or up-a flight of stairs without tripping and falling on my face. The good news is that Jesus also gave me people to help with the gaps in my memory. My dad is pretty good at remembering names, my mom is practically a walking concordance-if I can remember the verse, she can tell me where to find it. And I have four kids who remind me every day how to successfully navigate stairs. Most of the time this memory thing comes in handy. I enjoy being able to recall the majority of my life like I am rewinding a video camera and watching home movies. Some of the movies get watched frequently: My wedding day, the day each of my children was born, the day I asked Jesus to be my savior, the day my kids asked Jesus to be theirs. Those are the obvious favorites. But there are so many other good ones, and my extended family is involved in lots of them. Like when my cousin Andrew killed the black snake in our yard by swinging it around over his head like a lasso and smacking it against the live oak tree. Or when Daniel(my brother) and Andrew insisted that they could both go low on the same hand of spades even though they were partners, and after a long argument we let them, and they went set right away. Or when Anna(my cousin) threw up in the night and she and Joy(my sister) woke up with puke matted in their hair. Hey, just because someone else might not like the memory doesn’t mean I can’t!! I remember that when he was little Josiah(my cousin...I have a lot of cousins) thought I was wonderful. We had a silly little game “Josiah, who loves you?” I would ask. “You do” came his automatic response. “Who do I love?” I pushed further. “Me,” he would say with a grin. Random memories I recall in great detail:  Playing pick-up soccer in Macon, GA, and scoring a goal, and Robbie(yep, you guessed it, my cousin) running up to me and saying “Nice shot, Cuz!” And riding in the car with Uncle Jimmy, and him singing “Maybe it was Memphis” as loud as he could…that one is still really funny. Drinking tea with my grandmother, Memaw-she had a variety box, and we would share one tea bag for both our cups of tea. Constant Comment was her favorite, then English Tea Time. If I had the variety box with the names of all the different ones, I could probably put them in order from her favorite to her least-which was Lemon something. I remember Lovey (my great-aunt) taking my husband and I out to lunch, just because she wanted to get to know him better. I remember Nana(my great-grandmother) watering her violets in her housecoat. I remember laughter. So much laughter. And singing…so much of that too. And I think its a pretty safe bet that I have cried in front of every member of my considerable family. If not...wait till next time I see you! In my family alone are most of my favorite-and best- life memories. Sometimes, though, I wish I could erase some memories. Anna would probably erase the puke in her hair story. Daniel and Andrew may choose to delete how quickly they went set after throwing such a huge fit that we weren’t in charge of them and they could do what they wanted. I personally would love to forget a certain roller skating incident…don't ask. If I could erase the sadness and the pain of loss from my cousins faces, and only keep the good memories of Elizabeth…I think I would. We would remember how she was the BEST ‘kid’ when we played house, and everyone fought over who got to pick first cause we all wanted her, and we would delete the noticeable hole in our family sing-a-longs because her voice wasn’t there anymore. If I could forget the way it sounded to hear my dad sobbing in my foyer, or the sight of my mom laying in the floor screaming “She’s yours, Lord, she’s always been yours” at the top of her lungs, or the cries of my children filtering down the hall to where I was hiding so they wouldn’t see me falling apart, the agony of my sister Sarah’s wails coming over the phone lines, the desperate desire to be by Joy’s side, to hold her hand, to tell her I loved her before she died...the weight of the package that arrived from Malaysia, the way the postal worker handed it to me like it was any other package… the feeling that came over me when I realized it was my sister’s ashes…I will never ever forget sitting in the floor holding that box, how heavy it was, how I wanted to hug it, even though I knew that was dumb. Lately I have been having a heated conversation with the Lord. It revolves around this memory thing, because what used to be fun and handy has become something almost crippling. "I don't want to remember that, Lord. I can't take it again. Its too much. Why can't I forget?" This is an ongoing, -and until recently one-sided- conversation. But suddenly the Lord has responded to my questions, He has spoken to my heart, and His voice has brought me JOY. "LOOK!" He said. "LOOK AGAIN. What do you see?"  And this time when I looked, I still saw the hard things. I can't erase them, because they are a part of who I am now, a part of this life God has given me to live. But I saw other things too. I saw that my cousins and my aunt and uncle didn’t die from the pain of losing Elizabeth, even if maybe they wanted to for a while. It gave me hope that we wouldn’t die from losing Joy either. When we buried Joy’s ashes, Daniel and I filled in the hole together…for some reason, I remember having him beside me, how tall and strong he seemed, and how it comforted me. I remember how my husband became my hero, how he took care of me, how he made me eat so I could make Mom eat, how he held me in the darkest parts of the night-almost every night- while I cried. I remember the day Joy died, when I was laying in the floor, curled up in a ball sobbing, Rachel sat down beside me and held my hand. My baby sister taking care of me. I will cherish that memory forever. And I think watching my mom screaming to God that her child was really His might be the bravest thing I have ever seen in my life. Since the Lord's answer to my tirade, the memory movies that play over and over in my mind are often the same as before. But it seems there is a new set of subtitles. Joy and Elizabeth are with Jesus, and with each other- that line from the movie is blinking across the bottom of the screen in big, bold, highlighted script. Its the Lord's way of saying "LOOK!" It’s His way of showing His mercy WITHIN OUR PAIN, and His presence in every single step of this journey of life. We prayed for miracles, and we didn’t get the ones we asked for. But it’s not a secondary miracle that He IS STILL WITH US, and that we can all laugh again, and that we WILL SEE THEM AGAIN!!!! As I get older, I think I’ll probably start forgetting things…besides how to walk up and down stairs. I may not remember every single family event yet to come. But I will remember the laughter, and tears, and singing, and food, and chaos, and fun. I am sure I will have many specific memories that for some random reason will join the archives in my mind and replay whenever they choose. And I am sure that when that happens, I will feel the sadness that when my family gets together now...we are not all there. There is no way for us to all be together anymore. But I also know that the highlighted parts, when Jesus will reach down and press MAX on the volume, are the parts where we remember another reunion, the one that is to come. “A gathering of persons after separation” is what reunion means. We have been separated: by miles, by life, by death. But we will gather together again. Uncle Tom will bring his guitar, Elizabeth will sing the low harmony, Anna will sing the high one, and the rest of us will join in. Joy will have her arms thrown back like a butterfly, and Mom and Aunt Kathy won’t cry anymore. I’m gonna keep searching for those highlights, because they are God’s gracious blessing to me. He gave me a good memory, not so I could remember every single thing that happens in my life, but so that when I do, I will remember HIM. HIS PRESENCE WITH ME, His arms holding me, His mercyg iving me hope and excitement for the reunion...and the memories...yet to come.

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