Why Bother Remembering Childhood?

Why Bother Remembering Childhood?

Childhood was a crucial time for all of us. In many ways, it set the stage for adulthood. It was during those formative years that our thinking was sculpted, our abilities were developed, and certain tendencies were ingrained. Thankfully though, our brains are not are not made of concrete. Instead we can modify, change, and adapt our minds and our actions.

A Loving Touch

Trauma, especially during the developmental years of our lives, leaves its imprint. As a personal example, my fathers’ suicide left its mark on me. In my adult years, in order to understand some of my less productive behaviors such as anger, self-criticism, and distrust of others, I had to take a look at the past in order to move forward. 

In remembering my childhood I would sometimes only recall the harm that was done when my father took his life, or the disconnection between my mother and me. But, when I began to examine my childhood a little more closely, I had to conclude that my growing up years were not a complete disaster. There were some bright spots along the way, namely those who embossed their love on my heart in ways I could understand. 

First, there was the loving touch of my dad. Though it was short lived, it was still powerful enough for me to remember long after he was gone. Then there was my grandmother who understood me enough to know I needed a listening ear and she was the one to give it to me.  Finally, there was my godmother who looked into my face and spoke kind, gentle and encouraging words that nourished my broken heart. 

Although tragedies, sorrows, and wounds may come to the surface of our memory quickly, with ease, the good things are there as well. When we can recall those who loved us, and the love we received from them, the negative effects from our trauma is reduced. Remembering we were loved is one of the greatest de-stressing tools in our lives. 

Why bother to remember childhood? Looking back with the ability to recall the bad along with the good brings equilibrium into our present day thinking and our actions. 

 

Why Bother to Consider One’s Good Qualities?

Recently an acquaintance called to tell me some sad news. Her father recently committed suicide. Through her choking sobs she told me that the family was too torn apart by his suicide to even plan a memorial service. My heart hurt for her as I remembered how raw my emotions were when my father committed suicide. 

                  Funerals and Obituaries

I vividly recall reading my dad’s obituary in the newspaper as well as the words that were spoken at his funeral. At the time, the words written and spoken about my father seemed to be too glossy, untrue and unreal. He’d been referred to as a kind and considerate man who loved his family. As a teenager, whose father purposely had left her, the words sounded hypocritical. How could an honorable and up right man do such a thing as to take his own life. 

For many years, it was a quandary for me to see my father as the man he was in spite of what he did. But somewhere, long after those teen years of mine were behind me, I finally came to grips with my fathers’ life and the way he took his life away. 

My dad’s life had a beginning and middle, not just a sad ending. He’d been a young man, growing up in a small town. He played football and was active in other school extra-curricular activities. When he graduated, he worked for a banker and a lawyer before volunteering for military service. 

In a reference letter from one of those upstanding citizens he was said to be, “honorable and upright” in all his dealings. In another letter his character and morals were referred to as, “the very best.” 

He went on to serve in the Army as a cryptographic technician and earned a few medals. There was the Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, and The Victory Medal. He also had an honorable discharge. 

After he died, there were many cards and letters from the families of those whom my dad knew from his position as a nursing home administrator. They spoke of his kindness and consideration for their father or mother while under his care in the nursing home. 

He really was a good man, even if his story had a bad ending. But his final act does not discredit the proceeding years of his life. I hope my acquaintance and her family will come to terms with their father’s final act and at the same time, remember him as a good man. 

Why bother to consider one’s good qualities?  Everyone has some good qualities about their lives. Remembering them is up to us. 

Why Bother to Commemorate?

Why Bother To Commemorate?

It is Memorial Day weekend and for many it is a three day weekend as well as the unofficial beginning of summer. So, it is no wonder that our town is filled to the brim with tourists. They stroll along the main avenue window shopping and fill our pubs and restaurants. Our streets are clogged with cars carrying kayaks strapped to their rooftops and campers pulling trailers with four wheelers. In essence, our town is busy. But the pleasures of a fun filled weekend would never be possible without those brave men and women who willingly surrendered their lives on our behalf.

      Memorials

Some time ago, I visited our nation’s capital. Climbing the stairs from the subway, I stood on a busy street corner and paused, overwhelmed with more emotion than I’d anticipated. Washington D.C. is an old city filled with the history of this nation and while there, the events I’d only read about in books, presented themselves in ways more realistic to me than I’d ever imagined.  

I viewed the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and The Bill of Rights at the National Archives Museum. I stood outside the Ford Theater, where President Lincoln was shot and then looked in at the Petersen House where he’d lain until his death. I visited his memorial at the Washington Mall and gazed at his dignified statue.  

I wandered along the length of the granite wall with the 58,000 names of Vietnam Veterans etched into it and then stood still among the Korean War Veterans Memorial. The statues felt eerily alive. 

Arlington National Cemetery, 600 or more acres, is the resting ground for American warriors dating as far back as the Civil War. Like fields of grain on the prairie, my only view were the rows upon rows of white and gray headstones.  At The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I watched in somber silence as an impeccably dressed soldier walked the 21 precise steps back and forth in front of the tomb. 

Moving freely among these historical markers of our country’s history left me with a humble and grateful heart. Elmer Davis, a news broadcaster, writer and director of war information during the second World War said, “This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.”

Why bother to commemorate? The men and women who bravely surrendered their lives on our behalf are worth remembering. Without them, we would not have the liberty to enjoy the freedom of our three day weekend.

Why Bother Attending Funerals?

Why Bother Attending Funerals?

The first funeral I attended was my grandfather’s on my mother’s side. It was not a celebration of life, neither was it a memorial service. It had all the parts of a funeral; a visitation, the church service, committing the body to the ground and a reception. At the time he died, I was eight-years-old. During the visitation, when mourners viewed the body, one of my great aunts urged me forward, toward the casket. But I wanted nothing to do with looking at my grandfather’s dead body. When he was alive, he scared me. Seeing him dead would only intensify and cement that fear of him. So instead of going forward, I turned around and ran to the back of the chapel. Though this elderly relative of mine reprimanded me for my behavior, I stood my ground. I would not budge from my position at the back of the chapel. I wanted to be as far away from the casket as I could get. Since then, I’ve attended other funerals and have kept myself from fleeing to the back of the chapel.

Why Bother Remembering?

Funerals are not so much for the dead as much as they are for the living to remember the dead. And what we leave with other people to remember about our lives, will depend on how we live our lives. 

Sometimes, as in the case of a child, the memory of the deceased is short. Other times, after a long life is lived, there are a myriad of memories. Recently, I sat through the memorial service of a ninety-year-old woman. Though I knew her daughter more than I knew her, I still chose to attend the service. 

I recognized some of the people who sat around me, but mostly my focus was on the men who took turns recalling stories about how this woman’s life had influenced theirs. These grown and somewhat aged men with gray hair or bald heads, spoke highly of this common and ordinary woman.  As they recalled the words and actions of this woman, they momentarily choked up. Their friendship and experiences with her were greater than mine. They had spent more years with her and knew her far better than me. I left the service a little richer because their stories and their memories had embellished mine.  

Why bother attending funerals? It is worth showing up for a funeral for two reasons. First of all, you may get a fuller and more complete picture of the one you knew and secondly, you may be inspired to live a life others will want to remember.

Why Bother to Pay Tribute to Your Mother-in-Law?

 Why Bother to Pay Tribute to Your Mother-In-Law?

Monday morning, February 1, 2021, my mother-in-law, Berniece, took her last breath here on Earth and her first breath in Heaven. She was ninety some years old and I knew her as my mom-in-law for forty of those years. 

Remembering Her

I grin remembering her smile, her laughter, her voice when she sang, her compact physique, her authenticity, and faith.  She was a prayerful and practical woman who lived a common ordinary life with joy, the acceptance of others, and enough patience to get along with most everybody. She grew up as the eldest of six, birthed three sons, and widowed twice. 

 I loved hearing her laughter. It came easily especially when one of her brothers told some family story with enhanced details. I’d watch Berniece listening attentively, then observe how her smile grew wider with each exaggerated part of the tale. Then her laughter would bubble forth accompanied by tears streaming down her face. Sometimes, she’d laugh so hard that she had to hang onto her stomach with one hand while wiping tears away with the other.  

I remember her compact physique and how she liked putting on tennis shoes and going out for walks. Her hands though small, were strong. She held mine steady the time we prayed together for my prodigal and again when we cried together over the loss of one of my babies.  

Berniece was at home in any kitchen and we worked beside each other more than once or twice preparing or cleaning up after a meal. She peeled potatoes faster than me, knew how to flute a pie crust perfectly, and while washing dishes, always had a good visit with the grandchild who’d been assigned as the dish dryer. 

Her and her siblings were a close knit group. The first time I attended a family reunion I tried hard to learn the names of the slew of relatives who’d gathered down by a river, cooked over campfires and competed seriously in horseshoes. Though I learned the names of her brothers, sisters and their spouses, that was as far as I got. There were too many cousins and nieces and nephews for me to keep them all straight. 

At that particular family reunion, I heard my mom-in-law sing for the first time with her five siblings. The sound of their harmony echoed off the canyon wall and filled the air with the most beautiful sound.  

 Berniece no longer lives on Earth, but she has left remnants of herself in the numerous  grandchildren and great grandchildren whose names are numerous for me to remember. But when I see them, I know some of them will remind me of Berniecs’s smile, her laughter, her voice, her authenticity, and her perseverance with faith. 

Why bother to pay tribute to your mother-in-law?  It is worth it to honor those people whose lives, though ordinary, impacted yours with their joy, acceptance and enough patience to get along with most everybody. She was definitely one of those people.