Happy Valentine’s Day! ❤
Happy Valentine’s Day! ❤
“You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments that stand out, the moments when you have really lived, are the moments when you have done things in a spirit of love. As memory scans the past, above and beyond all the transitory pleasures of life, there leap forward those supreme hours when you have been enabled to do unnoticed kindnesses to those round about you, things too trifling to speak about, but which you feel have entered into your eternal life. I have seen almost all the beautiful things God has made; I have enjoyed almost every pleasure that He has planned for man; and yet as I look back I see standing out above all the life that has gone four or five short experiences, when the love of God reflected itself in some poor imitation, some small act of love of mine, and these seem to be the things which alone of all one’s life abide.”
– Henry Drummond, The Greatest Thing in the World
Whoah. There’s this story in the February National Geographic (Memories Can Be Altered in Mice. Are Humans next?) that has given me some pause for thought. Apparently neuroscientists have found a way to alter memories in mice – to get rid of old mice memories and create new mice memories. And… yikes?
I will not deny there are some memories that bring me pain. And, frankly, there are a LOT of memories that bring me embarrassment. And a few times I’ve caught myself wishing those memories could just go away. But those memories – the painful ones and the embarrassing ones, too – have taught me things that were important for me to learn. Those memories have helped guide the choices and decisions I make during the course of a day. How could I lose those memories and still keep the wisdom they brought?
There have been a few movies that have been built around the notion of memories being altered – Total Recall, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Manchurian Candidate. But those were just fiction. Until now I’ve always been confident that – if I lost everything else – I’d always have my memories of loved ones and good times to help me get through the dark periods in life. As Fred Astaire sang to Ginger Rogers, I’ve always thought, “They can’t take that away from me.”
But the article in National Geographic is nudging me to go deeper in my thinking about memories and memory loss. It’s nudged me to not be so cavalier about my memories, and to ponder the nature of memories and our identity. Are our memories what give us our identity? Would we have different identities without memories? What would the world be like if no one HAD a memory?
As the daughter of a 100 year-old father who has been diagnosed with some memory problems, I’ve sometimes felt the need to give prayerful thought to the notion of memory loss. One passage that has been helpful to me can be found in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. The author of Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy, writes: “If delusion says, ‘I have lost my memory,’ contradict it. No faculty of Mind is lost. In Science, all being is eternal, spiritual, perfect, harmonious in every action. Let the perfect model be present in your thoughts instead of its demoralized opposite. This spiritualization of thought lets in the light, and brings the divine Mind, Life not death, into your consciousness.”
That passage can be found under the heading Immortal Memory. Which leads me to ponder this: Is there a difference between immortal memory and mortal memory? And, if so, what is it…?
I guess a mortal memory would be a memory that can die? And “immortal memory” is memory that’s eternal?
In his book, The Greatest Thing in the World, Henry Drummond (a popular progressive Scottish minister of the 18th century) shares some of his thoughts on the things that are eternal, and the things that aren’t.
In I Corinthians 13 Paul writes,”Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away…”
In response to this Biblical passage, Drummond writes: “Can you tell me anything that is going to last? Many things Paul did not condescend to name. He did not mention money, fortune, fame; but he picked out the great things of his time, the things the best men thought had something in them, and brushed them peremptorily aside. Paul had no charge against these things in themselves. All he said about them was that they would not last. They were great things, but not supreme things. There were things beyond them. What we are stretches past what we do, beyond what we possess. Many things that men denounce as sins are not sins; but they are temporary. And that is a favorite argument of the New Testament. John says of the world, not that it is wrong, but simply that it ‘passeth away.’ There is a great deal in the world that is delightful and beautiful; there is a great deal in it that is great and engrossing; but IT WILL NOT LAST.”
Drummond goes on to write, “The immortal soul must give itself to something that is immortal. And the only immortal things are these: ‘Now abideth faith, hope, love, but the greatest of these is love.'”
So here’s what I’m thinking: The mortal memory may fade or be altered, but the love behind the memory – the love that went into making the memory – that stays. That’s an immortal memory.
Dad’s mortal memory isn’t as good as maybe it once was – but the immortal memory – the memory that holds Love – that’s still there. And I’m thinking that if I were to lose all my “mortal memories” – no one can take away the Love that was expressed in them and behind them and the foundation for them. You can’t take THAT away from me. (Imagine Fred Astaire singing here…) No, no, you can’t take that away from me.
Karen: You’re going to your doctor’s appointment now.
Dad: I have to finish my avocado first.
Karen: (Laughing.) No, we have to leave now to get you to your appointment.
Dad: Oh. Okay.
(Scott and I help Dad down the stairs and into the car.)
Karen: (Wanting to make sure Dad understands where we’re going.) We’re going to your eye doctor now.
Dad: Oh. I didn’t know anything about this. (Re-thinking that.) I guess I forgot about it.
As we drive to the doctor’s office Scott points out the snow to Dad and Dad turns his head to look out the window at it. We get to the clinic and help Dad out of the car and into the reception area. A lot of patients have, apparently, cancelled because of the snow – the waiting room is empty. Dad is immediately ushered into the exam room.
Karen: Do you recognize this place?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah.
(I relay the technician’s requests into Dad’s ear…)
Karen: You need to uncross your legs. She’s going to take your blood pressure. Good. Your blood pressure is 110 over 87. That’s really good!
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah.
Karen: (The technician points a beam of light into Dad’s bad eye.) Do you see the light?
Dad: (Shaking his head.) No.
(Dad reads the eye chart now with his good eye and does really well – he adds two whole lines to what he did last time! The technician asks Dad to look straight ahead so she can touch his eye with a pen-thingy that measures the pressure in his eyes. The big letter “B” is still showing on the eye chart and Dad thinks the technician is trying to get him to read that…)
Dad: B. B. B. (Starting to crack up. Grinning and shaking his head at me.) B. B.
We help Dad into the room where he’s going to have his eyes photographed. He remembers this room and immediately puts his chin in the chin cup so the eyeball-photographer can take pictures. Then it’s up and into the final room where we’ll meet with Dr. Saperstein. Dr. Saperstein comes in…
Dr. Saperstein: (Smiling.) Knowing you guys, I figured you’d make it in today.
Karen to Dad: (Laughing.) Dad, Dr. Saperstein is a mountain climber, too.
Dad: He is? (Smiling. He looks at Dr. Saperstein like he’s just met a new friend. He and Dr. Saperstein shake hands.)
Dr. Saperstein to me: Thank you for your book! I enjoyed it!
Karen: Did you read the parts about you?
Dr. Saperstein: (Laughing.) I did!
(Dr. Saperstein looks at the photographs of Dad’s eyes, and the chart. He tells me that Dad’s good eye looks really good – Dad is doing really well. He says we shouldn’t have to come in for another eight weeks – that Dad should be fine for that length of time. We shake hands and I thank him for helping Dad with his eyesight.)
We help Dad back in the car and head back to his home. Amanda meets us at the top of the stairs and helps Dad into the kitchen – from here he can go into the living room to watch some television, or back to his own room for a nap, or… Dad heads for the dining room table.)
Karen: (Guessing what’s on Dad’s mind.) Do you want to finish your avocado now?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah.
(Dad’s avocado is placed in front of him. He’s going to pick up where he left off before we interrupted him.)
Karen: (Laughing.) I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you, Karen.
Nikki writes: “Once again, Ms. Terrell takes the reader on a journey through her life. The glimpses and stories of what it is like taking care of the people who raised you are stories that bring hope, a few tears, and a whole lot of love. Through reading Ms. Terrell’s adventures with her 100 year old father, we see the love they have for each other, and the strength this season of life requires.The book offers hope, humor, love, compassion, tenderness and family.”
Dad is sitting at the kitchen table eating his breakfast when I stop by. He looks up and sees me and his face lights up with a smile…
Karen: Hi, Daddy!
Dad: What day is this?
Karen: It’s Friday. (I go into Dad’s room to fetch the calendar I gave him for Christmas. I point to the day on the calendar.) It’s Friday, February eighth. (I point to the year.) 2019. You’re going to turn 101 this year!
Dad: (Nodding and thinking about this. He points to the calendar’s picture.) Did you take that picture?
Karen: Yes. Trumpeter swans.
Dad: Did you take all these pictures?
Karen: Yup. (Explaining why I’m here on a Friday.) We got out of school early today because of the snow. (Dad looks out the window to see what’s going on out there.) It’s supposed to snow six to eight inches.
Dad: (Smiling.) It used to snow six to eight FEET at Rainier.
Karen: I know! (Grinning.) People prepare for a blizzard here when six to eight inches are predicted. Did you ever get snow in Los Angeles?
Dad: (Smiling.) Once. They closed school for a week.
Karen: Well, I should probably get to the store. I just wanted to stop in and see you.
Dad: I’ll come over tonight…
Karen: No, it’s okay. Let’s all stay safe in our own homes tonight.
Dad: Oh. Okay.
Karen: I love you, Daddy. (I kiss the top of his head. He smiles and waves at me as I leave.)
I wake at four in the morning
and tread downstairs to the living room
to see what the cats are up to, and to
maybe read or write a poem or talk
to Mom. I have a feeling of anticipation.
It feels like Christmas morning
is what I’m thinking and just then
I look out the front window and see
the neighbor has turned his Christmas
lights on and they’re shining on the snow
around his house – how beautiful!
There’s a lightening and lifting in the air.
The cats are playing – rolling around each
other in a ball of calico and black fur. Half-
feral cat jumps up on the couch to have his
his head scratched – and there’s magic
in his coming to me. He’s a wary one –
I’ve been given an honor.
It is 4:30 in the morning and I have ruffled
a cat’s fur and written a poem and hugged
Moz in my thoughts. And she has hugged
– Karen Molenaar Terrell
Dad is sitting at the kitchen table, finishing breakfast when I get there. I rub his back and ask him if he’d like to go for a drive.
Dad: Yes, I would. (Pause.) I love it when you rub my back.
We’re in the car now. Just before I pull out on our adventure…
Karen: Hi, Daddy!
Dad: Hi, Sweetheart!
Karen: (Smiling.) Let’s go on our drive!
We drive a different route this time – up old Hwy 99, over I-5, and down the hill. We make a quick stop at my house. It has occurred to me that, for all the books I’ve asked Dad to sign for other people, I’ve never asked him to sign my own book about our adventures together for me. I fetch a copy of the book from inside the house and bring it out to him. I feel a weird shyness about asking him to sign the book for me, but I hand it to him – point out the title, point out the picture of him on the cover, point out my name on the bottom of the cover. He takes off his hat and compares it with the hat he’s wearing on the cover.
Karen: (Smiling.) Yes! That’s you on the cover and that’s the very same hat!
Dad: (Smiling and reading my name on the cover…) Karen Molenaar…
Karen: Yes. I wrote this. It’s about our adventures together. (Pause.) Will you sign this for me, Daddy?
Dad: (Opens the book to the title page and writes: “Love – to Karen – Daddy Dee” – and I find myself tearing up a little – touched by his sweet inscription.)
I drive to the Sisters Espresso and park in front of it. Dad and I turn to each other at the exact same time and utter the exact same words: “Root beer float.” We start laughing. I go up to order the root beer float for Dad and a lavender green iced tea for me.
I drive down Thomas Road – knowing there will be a view of Mount Baker from there – and right away Dad spots it…
Dad: There’s Mount Baker!
Karen: Yes. There’s a lot of smoke in the air today, but there it is!
I drive Dad back to his home and park in front of the door.
Karen: Thank you for this drive today!
Dad: Thank you!
Karen: I love you, Daddy!
Dad: I love you, Karen!