This past weekend I attended the 35th reunion of my senior year’s college football team, then drove across the state to play golf with my brothers on the 20th anniversary of our Dad’s passing at the too early age of 57. Two events the same weekend driven by the same force, yet from two opposite viewpoints. As I drove the Pennsylvania Turnpike Sunday morning, I considered how the two events were connected.
The football team reunion was to recognize a point in our lives that had tremendous impact and change, to celebrate that rare gift we had as a team, to reconnect with teammates and memories of success, and to honor a wonderful team. The golf outing was to recognize an event that impacted and changed our lives, to celebrate that rare gift we had as a family, to reconnect with feelings and memories and to honor the legacy of a wonderful man. Both events were driven by memories and an act of remembrance.
How much of our lives revolved around memories, either making them or having them? Kodak had built a multi-billion-dollar empire around the tagline of “share memories, share life.” The heart of Facebook is tied to sharing photos and updates – memories. I love the Jim Croce song “Photographs and Memories” where the lyrics emphasize the little but memorable things in life – morning walks, bedroom talks, summer skies and lullabies. We have family traditions that help form a rhythm to life with milestones to look forward to and to also create memories to look back upon. My personal favorite ‘remembrance’ is having a cup of coffee in the morning at my Mom’s house which I drink it in the backyard where my Dad had his garden – I drink half and pour the rest on the soil, sharing my coffee and conversation with his presence.
Souvenir is a word of French origin meaning ‘to remember’ and that’s why we obtain these keepsakes. We collect souvenirs to remind us of a place visited, a special occasion, the people we connected with, and those precious moments. I have seashells collected off a beach, my college football helmet, some of my Dad’s polo shirts and ties to wear on special occasions he should have a presence at, and many others. As a family, we collect a Christmas tree ornament from special places and times.
Some say life is memory, that the future is something we imagine and the present is gone in a millisecond, so everything becomes a memory. You could live a long life, but without a lot of memories there isn’t much to that life. So, if life is memory, the way to have a good life is to make memories. Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” So, what is the examination of life? Reviewing memories.
Memories that have love at their core strike a chord and get remembered. A lack of committed engagement will create a lack of memories. I used to wonder why I didn’t remember certain things that my brothers or friends did and in some cases, it bothered me. Then I realized they were trivial things that I wasn’t recalling, no essence of importance or meaning. Vicki and I volunteer for Wreaths Across America where we help place a Christmas Wreath on the graves of soldiers who died in battle for our freedom. Part of that process is that we say the soldier’s name while placing the wreath, because a man is not dead while his name is still spoken.
The Acts of the Apostles and the Gospels are the written compilation of memories, recollections and remembrances of individuals. Jesus stressed during the Last Supper to “Do this in remembrance of me” such that when I am no longer with you in this world, these acts will have My presence in your midst. We join ourselves to Him in an everlasting covenant in remembrance of what He did for us, when He died for us. Recollection, in respect to the spiritual life, means attention to the presence of God.
In my collection of quotes gathered over the years I have one from W.S. Merwin, a poet and author who said, “What you remember saves you.” In our daily life, these memories provide a thread connecting us to a warm and loving foundation. In our spiritual life this quote redeems us, our remembrance of Christ and His dying for us provides our salvation.
When I became a father my Dad told me, very clearly as I can picture sitting on his patio hearing his words, that one of my most important roles as a Dad was “to make memories for my kids.”