Those of us with working, intact memories often take for granted what a gift memory is. We don’t spend time to think through all the details of life that would be lost forever if not for this magical part of our brains that keeps a storehouse for us. Memories are our link to the past and our preparation for the future.
A memory tells you about the mother you grew up with, and how she used to stand at the sink and stare out the window and say, “Look at that sunrise baby.” It reminds you of the perfume she wore and the way she swayed her hips when she danced around the house. It reminds you of her coming home from work and giving you the biggest hug and asking about your day like it was the most interesting thing in the world.
A memory reminds you of the time that you fell off of your bike and scraped your knees up, but you were so exhilarated that you finally rode on your own that you didn’t even care. In fact, you kind of liked that scar that developed. To this day, you like to tell the story of that epic fall on that tiny bicycle.
A memory brings back the song you danced to for your first dance, how you felt a little scared and a lot excited and how you wanted to hold that person forever because we all know that love at 14 is deep and passionate love. And it reminds you of the days following, of the joy and laughter and heartbreak at the end. Some memories maybe are best forgotten.
Memories live in Christmas’ spent with family, in a turkey being carved at the table at Thanksgiving. Memories take shape in Easter egg hunts and Fourth of July fireworks shows and trick or treating as a ghost. Each time you sat at the table again, surrounded by family or friends. Every time you rolled your eyes at the crazy things your uncle said or every time you laughed at your baby cousin.
A memory is a home for all the places we’ve been.
And memories also hold the importance of the present and the future. A memory tells us when we need to be at the doctor’s office and what we need to get at the grocery store. A memory reminds us what someone’s name is or which way to turn for the dentist’s office.
Memory is vital for remembering our loved one’s birthdays and how to make your favorite cake and how to get back home again. Memory is how we connect what has been with what is now. It reminds us of who we are. When we forget, memory tells us: yes you like celery and you need time alone and you’ll never understand why people don’t plan things in advance. It nudges the space in our minds that sometimes loses sight of who we are.
Without memory, we cannot hold the joy of years past, but nor can we hold the sorrow, and maybe that is a small gift.
Not all is lost. When our brains cannot remember, when the memories are hidden somewhere and no matter how we try, cannot be recalled, there is still hope. For our bodies can hold memories in a space apart from our cognitive brain. We may not realize that we remember, but our bodies KNOW that person, they KNOW that smell, they KNOW that song. And in the unconscious knowing, there is that joy again. Though we don’t know what brings that joy, we know that that smell or sound or touch is good.
And so there are many ways to remember. There are many ways to care for our memories. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that we are still who we are, whether we remember or not.