THANK GOD FOR MEMORY
Two deaths in the space of four months—first my mom in February, then my husband in June—labels 2016 a tough year in my history book.
Death of a loved one is never easy, but to experience two losses in such a short period of time is like having the ambulance transporting you after a car wreck you just survived T-boned on the way to the hospital.
You’ve barely had time to catch your breath from the first gaping wound when another is inflicted.
Grief is nebulous, yet poignant; crippling, yet cleansing; personal, yet universal.
The last word that comes to mind when hearing the word “grief” is “thankfulness.”
Yet, would grief exist if joy, happiness, and love had not precluded it?
When I struggle to put grief in perspective with the goodness of God, I am drawn to the book of Job. We all know of the misery he suffered, the unspeakable sorrow he bore, the devastating despair that enveloped him. Yet, how did he respond?
His wife said to him, “You are still as faithful as ever, aren’t you? Why don’t you curse God and die?”
10 Job answered, “You are talking nonsense! When God sends us something good, we welcome it. How can we complain when he sends us trouble?” Even in all this suffering Job said nothing against God – Job 2:9-10
It was harder to accept my mom’s death than I thought it would be. I was so sure I was “ready” when Mom passed. Although mentally keen as a knife drawn across a sharpening stone, physical maladies, pain, and exhaustion warned us her days on earth were nearing their end. To be honest, my sister and I prayed for her relief from suffering.
Since her death, too many moments have come and gone that I wish I could share with her. The fact that I can’t produces a dull ache, kind of like the nag of an arthritic joint on a cold, cloudy day.
Although we had been forewarned of the gravity of his condition, my husband’s passing was much more difficult to bear. Reports from the surgical suite were optimistic, so much so that I went to the hospital chapel and thanked God for his mercy in bringing Manuel successfully through yet another surgery. It was upon my return to the waiting room that I was informed he had suffered cardiac arrest and was unable to be revived, despite heroic efforts by the surgical team.
Kind of reminds me of Job in a remote way. I’m sure that iconic Biblical character asked more than once how life could be so good one moment and so bleak the next.
The loss of my husband has inflicted a more acute, more frequent pain that throbs like a knife slash to the gut. His death has forced me to examine myself as a widow, a self-sufficient woman, and a child of God.
The drug that renders my pain bearable through both of these losses is memory. Sure, photographs, videos, greeting cards, and conversations with others whose lives they also touched trigger vivid recall of the part these loved ones played on my life stage.
Yet, it is the intimate moments of laughter and tears, triumphs and failures, dreams realized and hopes dashed, shared within those relationships that bind me to Mom and Manuel across the span of time. Without that treasure trove of deep seated memories that allows me to drink my fill, the pain would be so raw that it would surely crush my spirit under its weight.
There is much in my current circumstance that I have to be thankful for, but the one gift from God that stands out most prominently for me during this stretch of my life journey is memory.
My sentiments about this blessing are reflected in the following poem, recited by me at my mom’s funeral service and printed on my husband’s memorial card.
God gave us memory,
A dear and precious gift,
That on our darkest day
We could receive a lift.
He knew we’d suffer pain
Along life’s rocky fall,
And so He gave our brain
The power to recall
Our loved one’s tender smile
Or kind, devoted touch,
The guidance thru each trial
That fueled our love so much.
Though gone from here below
And where we cannot see,
Love leaves our heart aglow
Thanks to our memory.
So when your day is long
And sadness in you burns,
Your loneliness is strong
And there seems nowhere to turn
Take a moment from the day
To get down on your knees,
Bow your head to pray
“Thank you, Lord, for memories.”
Can you find thankfulness in any grief you may have experienced this year?
BIO: Patti has had short work published in two anthologies and local publications. She has three novels in progress. She has conducted workshops at Christian Writers conferences and served as an editor with a small publishing company. Patti loves to promote writers, both published and unpublished, on her two blogs, Patti’s Porch and The Over 50 Writer. She shares stories through personal interviews of those who have found their way from a dark place back to light or those who help others back to light on her weekly Blog Talk Radio show, Step Into the Light.
Patti lives in Southeastern Colorado and is fortunate to reside in the same town as her daughter and fifteen year old granddaughter, her only grandchild. Still, her heart brims with memories of the Adirondack North Country of New York, where she spent many childhood vacations and still returns periodically to visit family.
Twitter – https://twitter.com/PattiShene
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They say when you reach the end of your life, memories play back like snapshots.
Images of your first best friend, your first doll house, your first day of school … your first surprise birthday party.
I was five or six, young enough to have little concept of time, when my parents decided to throw my first surprise party. Had I been a year or two older, their plans would’ve failed, sabotaged by all my nagging:
“Did you forget what day it is, Mom?”
“What’d you get me?”
“Where’s my cake?”
And receiving no answers, or vague ones at that, I would’ve thrown a giant, Jennifer-sized fit likely resulting in me being grounded. On my birthday.
But that wasn’t what happened, though, frankly, I don’t remember a whole lot of the details. I don’t remember who came, what gifts I received, or what games I played. I don’t even remember the flavor of the cake, though I assume chocolate. Yes, I was a chocoholic, even back then.
What I do remember, however, is spending a chunk of time with my dad who drove me all about, wasting time while my mother prepared for my party.
Funny, those memories of he and I doing basically nothing are stronger than my memories of the actual party.
Why is it some events cement themselves in our brain with such impact, such emotional oomph, while others drift away, soon forgotten?
As a mom, I find myself considering this, because I know what I do (or don’t do) today, forms lasting memories deep in my daughter’s heart. Sometimes it’s the oddest things that mean the most to her. Listening to her talk about her past, I catch glimpses into her heart, hints of those mental snapshots she’s building.
And I’ve discovered something. Most often, her most vivid memories are of those simple, casual moments when she and I did basically nothing. Together.
Because it’s not the event that creates the memory but the person we share the event with. It’s the emotional connection made.
This simplifies things, doesn’t it? For me, realizing this creates a sense of peace. It reminds me I don’t need to be the most exciting mom, I don’t need to plan outlandish outings and events. I just need to be there. Fully present.
That’s the snapshot I long to create.
What about you? Consider some of your fondest memories. What sticks out the most—the event or the person you shared the moment with? As a parent or spouse, has your loved one shared any special memories with you? Did those memories surprise you? What are you doing today to create those special snapshots in your loved one’s life?
Jennifer Slattery writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. Her debut novel, Beyond I Do, is currently discounted in e-book format for under $3! You can find it here: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/beyond-i-do-jennifer-slattery/1118903211?ean=9781596694170
She also writes for Crosswalk.com, Internet Café Devotions, and writes and edits for Christ to the World Ministries. When not writing, Jennifer loves helping aspiring authors grow in their craft, and has editing slots open beginning in November. Find out more here: http://wordsthatkeep.wordpress.com/
Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.
Beyond I Do:
Will seeing beyond the present unite them or tear them apart?
Marriage . . . it’s more than a happily ever after. Eternally more.
Ainsley Meadows, raised by a hedonist mother, who cycles through jobs and relationships like wrapping paper on Christmas morning, falls into a predictable and safe relationship with Richard, a self-absorbed socialite psychiatrist. But as her wedding nears, a battered woman and her child spark a long-forgotten dream and ignite a hidden passion. One that threatens to change everything, including her fiancé. To embrace God’s best and find true love, this security-seeking bride must follow God with reckless abandon and realize that marriage goes Beyond I Do.
Read a free, 36-page excerpt here:
So, Valentine’s Day…
Hallmark conspiracy or a great day to focus on love?
I’m spending my day in an unconventional way (hint: Cue the Law and Order music) but thought I’d share a couple Valentine memories over the years. It’s funny how my romance meter ebbs and flows.
I’m 6 and in the first grade and I get the stomach flu. I miss an entire week of school including my Valentine’s party. I remember my bag being overstuffed with valentines. I felt so loved. I remember the guy I had a little first grade crush on gave me a Hong Kong Phooey card. Oh the days!
I’m 26 and a newlywed. My husband comes home and I have such huge hopes that our time together will mirror one of his black and white movies we watch together. He comes home and hands me a plastic shopping bag with an oversized pink kitten sweatshirt. I’ll never forget his words as he handed the bag to me.
“This was on sale.”
I laugh now and it took a long time to communicate my disappointment. He felt pressured by a coworker to buy something and knew I was practical so he thought saying it was on sale would sound practical. I admitted handing me a bag with those words didn’t make me feel valued. He then confessed the shirt was all that was left. You know what though? I wore that thing for years. It’s a good story to talk about expectations.
The last Valentine’s that stands out I think I was 30. Our son was hooked on the show Lizzie McGuire. We watched every episode including what the heartthrob character wrote in Lizzie’s yearbook. I thought it was a stroke of genius that I wrote that statement in my husband’s card. An inside joke. An ode to Lizzie.
I chuckled all week thinking about him opening the card.
You rock. Don’t ever change.
I still laugh about that, we became so one in communication we wrote the same thing to each other!
What Valentine memories do you have?
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