Remembering into memory

What is your earliest memory? I’ve read that around 3 is about the time memory can kick into action as that is about the point in our development when we discover we’re our own persons. Hmm, it took me much longer than that to figure out I could be my own person. Or, maybe I knew it but didn’t remember it. Anyway, again, what is your first memory? The very first thing I remember is a bright light and being held down against my will. I remember not being happy about this but, thankfully, I don’t remember pain in this memory. At some age I was told about an incident in our backyard that occurred when I was about two years old. Apparently I picked up one of those plastic practice golf balls off the ground at the precise moment my sister was in full swing towards it with one of my dad’s golf clubs. The hole in my head was not exactly the hole in one she was after. I was rushed to the emergency room and received some dandy stitches, the scar of which decorates my forehead even all these decades later. So, I have concluded that the bright light memory I have comes from the emergency room experience of being held down for stitches.

As I guess all families have stories that get passed down, this was one of those stories that got repeated through the years in my family. I’m sure it wasn’t my sister’s favorite. I think she’s felt responsible for the pain of the world ever since. When, in fact, she does more than her share of trying to relieve the pain of others. (Proof perhaps that memories have a hold on the future?) I’ve heard the story of the golf clubs and the backyard party that was going on, the reason the clubs were brought out in the first place. My sister having to stay behind with my grandparents while my parents took me to the hospital. I’ve heard about getting to have ice cream after enduring the whole stitch trauma. I heard the story so many times as a child that at some point the hearing of what happened blurred with my memory of what I experienced so that I could no longer separate what I heard from what I truly remembered. It all became “membered” together.

I’m not sure what has brought this silly incident to the forefront of my consciousness again. But it has made me think about how important it is to tell our family stories and to tell them often so that we can fill in those memory gaps for each other, and so we can affirm our identity in one another. I have shared with you in a previous post that I have a granddaughter in the neonatal icu unit at a local hospital, born early so we all must wait until she is big enough and strong enough to go home with her family. My daughter is keeping a page of updates on her on a caring website. Beautiful posts that speak of her progress, her prayers and hopes, and their gratitude for the love and support of God and family and friends. Many have expressed to my daughter how much they appreciate her updates. She told me that what she is really doing is creating a memory of all of this. A memory to share with her daughter as she grows so that she will know all of the love and prayers and support she received in her start of life. Memory for them all to see the ways God has been with them in the difficult times and in the joys of the moment. Memory of God’s presence in the past so that they will remember to trust God’s presence in their future journeys. I wonder if my granddaughter will have the slightest true memory of any of this. Highly unlikely at her tiny age. However, I am so thankful to know that through my daughter’s loving words, the experience of this courageous one’s entry into life will be “membered” into her mind’s eye forever.

God told the Israelites to tell the story of the Passover. To remember the time when God delivered a people out of slavery. A deliverance born of a love which intended for them to be future vessels of blessing to the world. A loving freedom to be remembered for themselves and for future generations. A story to be told over and over again so that the memory could be grafted into their children’s hearts to enable them to love God and to love their neighbor. They didn’t do it perfectly, but faithfully in their brokenness. Time and time again their memories needed to be refreshed. We too, on the resurrection side of Jesus, are called to do the same. To remember the love and grace we have been given, to live it’s memory in our present, and to be that love for the future memory of others. I wonder sometimes, in the midst of all of the doctrinal and political arguments that plague the church today, if perhaps we have forgotten to remember. And I wonder, what future memories are being grafted into our children through what they are seeing in us today? Will they remember love? Something to chew on…

About isplainasjane

Minister of Word and Sacrament, PC(USA). M. Div. writes. preaches. teaches. speaks. encourages, God is love.
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3 Responses to Remembering into memory

  1. Jane,
    This entry reminded me so much of my daughter’s experience with her 1st child in the NICU. I went back to her blog and hope that you and your daughter will find her words encouraging. Harper is now 3 and healthy and happy and all the better for her NICU experience!

    MONDAY, AUGUST 16, 2010

    Debbie Downer Strikes Again
    Yesterday was one of the lowest days I’ve had since we learned about Harper’s condition and I just feel compelled to share. I’m not sure why but my emotions hit me like a ton of bricks. Now, let me preface this by saying Harper is doing great. Nothing has gone awry as far as her condition and she continues to be on an uphill slope. I think the fact that my little girl is stuck in the hospital just knocked me flat on my backside.

    As I’ve said before, Harper’s omphalocele gets wrapped on even days in gauze and betadyne, while on the odd days, her omphalocele is left to dry out with just a support band around the base. The days when Harper is wrapped are the best days. We can hold our little girl as much as we want – to feed her, to burp her, to rock her, to lull her to sleep and just to plain smother her in our affection. These are the just wonderful and holding my little girl is something I don’t think I’ll ever take for granted. I’ll still hold her tight when she’s nine and has her feelings hurt on the playground, when she’s sixteen and has her first broken heart, when she’s eighteen and leaves for college, on her wedding day, on the day she has a baby of her own and even when I’m old and gray and just need a little Harper squeeze. I can’t get enough of that little Nugget! On the flipside, unwrapped days just seem to drag by. We can touch her and move her around but it’s just not the same as holding your baby in your arms.

    Since we are still getting little sleep, are both exhausted and since it was an unwrapped day, Jared and I made the decision to spend yesterday with a few hours of the morning at the hospital and then go back to meet her night nurse that evening. Since she’s on a full feeding schedule, Harper likes to do two things – eat and sleep. We gave her a bottle, spent a good chunk of time with her while she was up and stroked her forehead until she went to sleep. We left for the middle portion of the day to see what we could do to rest and I completely fell apart. I felt like the most unfit mother to have a child that is ten days old and to only spend a few hours of the day with her. I know, I know. I need my rest to take good care of her, I don’t want my milk to dry out so need adequate sleep, she’s in great hands with the staff at the hospital, Harper won’t remember this period of time…I’ve heard it all but nothing can stop those feelings of absolute guilt and heart ache each time I walk out of the hospital. I just want my baby home, in her own bed, footsteps away from her parents. I want to be able to see her face when I wake up at 2AM instead of calling the hospital, asking for Baby Meabon, spelling it out each time because no one seems to know how to spell M-E-A-B-O-N and hearing the nurse give me a full update on what MY child did over the last few hours. Jared and I should be the faces she sees each time she wakes up instead of a different nurse most days and nights. I can’t help but feel completely inadequate when it comes to being a first time mom and not being able to parent just like “normal people” do. Oh, it was feeling like a long road already and we are just days into what will be months. I cried the majority of the day, my tears just wouldn’t dry up and ended up in a messy heap on our bed.

    And just like that, yesterday’s heartache turned into today’s joy. Hooray for wrapped days! Harper spent the majority of the day today in either my arms, Jared’s arms or my mom’s arms and she continues to make progress. She’s starting to slowly put on extra weight after her initial drop from her birth weight. Harper’s birth weight was 6 lbs. 11 oz and at last night’s weigh in, she was back up to 6 lbs. 8 oz. They’ve added a calorie supplement and a vitamin supplement to her bottles so try to increase her weight. Additionally, they’ve been using five soaked betadyne strips to cover her omphalocele on wrapped days. Well, we’ve discovered that it now only takes four strips meaning her doctors thinks her omphalocele might be decreasing a bit in size.

    And more great news, I got to breastfeed Harper today! Once we found out I could produce milk, we were always under the impression I’d be a pumping mom. Well, Dr. Kenton and Dr. Shapiro asked if I wanted to give the boob a whirl and, sure enough, it worked! I never knew how I’d feel about this but there’s something so natural in being able to take care of your child. God made us this way and I now see how something so simple can feel so fulfilling. To continue, Harper’s night nurse from last night (who we really liked) is back on tonight so we were able to come home to a dinner provided by our neighbors, the Gomez’s, and relax for another day tomorrow without having to trek back to the hospital tonight to meet another new nurse.

    I know Harper is exactly where she is meant to be, and while this is the hardest thing I’ve ever been through, I know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t think I’ll ever begrudge those late night cries when I feel my way across the house to check on Sweet Thing. So just when I think I’m down in the dumps, lowest of the low, saddest of the sad, I asked the Lord for help and look what he does! Thank you God for the simple things in life that can take a Debbie Downer Day one day into a Hooray Harper Day the next!

  2. Helen Hawn says:

    Hi Jane – what a gift you have! Loved reading all of it…the story about the water is the best! Love it! Can u send me Lauren’s link. ? My texts & mail are a mess! Love to u & Tom. Ps. Keep writing I want to keep reading!

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