At my family’s recent reunion my mother was the only one of her generation able to be present. There are five of that age group still living, but the other four suffer with dementia. My mom does not. I spoke with a friend recently who told me her mother and father suffered with Alzheimers disease, and that she saw signs in herself that may indicate she is starting down that road herself. Many years ago a dear friend who happened to be a surgeon showed signs of Alzheimers. Fortunately his family recognized the signs and got him out of the operating room before there was a terrible tragedy.
Dementia and Alzheimers disease are awful afflictions. They rob a person not only of memory but eventually of all self awareness. The person we see in the end is certainly not the person we knew before, at least mentally and emotionally. I would just as soon miss that misery, but I am not in control.
Memory is a good gift from God. The idea of “remembering” is common in Scripture. It is the theme of the whole book of Deuteronomy. The Psalmists frequently tell people to remember God, His gifts and His works on their behalf. The writers of the New Testament speak of “remembering the saints” and encourage people to keep telling the stories of how Christ saved them. Memory is one of the foundations of faith. When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper He told His disciples to take the bread and wine “in remembrance of (Him).”
Not all our memories of people or events in our past are good, but the ability to remember is good. Good memories spur us to praise and praise builds faith. Painful memories offer the opportunity to lay our burdens before Jesus and the yieldedness builds faith, peace, strength and endurance. Paul talks about “forgetting that which is past,” but he means a choice to not allow the past to shackle us with crippling guilt, regret, or even complacency in the present and future
Journals, diaries or photographs are the essence of the past captured on paper, meant to jar memories that are bigger and better than the pictures or words themselves. Memories can be used for good or bad. If they move us to forgive, serve, be grateful, trust or plan more effectively, that is for good. If bad memories become resentment and move us to forecast future doom on someone because of a slight or hurt, that is evil. But used as God intended, memory is a beautiful gift from God.
Church homecomings help stir a lot of memories. That also can be good or bad. If we remember the glorious days of the past and get so glued to that time we don’t address the present clearly and effectively, that is bad. If a church looks only at the times the numbers seemed to get smaller and allow these memories to make them feel such failures that they give up, that is bad. But what if the members choose to remember everything, and enjoy seeing former members and friends yet remain stuck on the present, planning, praying, rejoicing, believing God for blessings, and sharing that hope with everyone? Then homecoming can be revival for the future instead of virtually burying the church under a pall of unrealized dreams and burned out enthusiasm. As you know our Homecoming services are on Sunday, August 17. Let’s remember blessings and make some more blessed memories.
Stewart B. Simms, Jr.