Memories and How They Shape Us

Sep 11, 2020

In honor of a day in history that we, Americans, will never forget.

My family teases me about my storage room full of photos, gifts, letters, and cards. True, it is an entire room with boxes, bins, albums, file cabinets, and chests, but each contain memories of my life. There are 62 years of things that I never want to forget.  

I’m proud of a lot of things in those photos, but not everything. Most things in the boxes remind me of a time in my life that was pleasant, but not everything

Many of the cards were to celebrate happy occasions in my life, but not all of them.  

Well-wishes and cards from nice people who treated me well, but not everyone.

I keep them all.  Memories of good times, bad times, happy times, and sad time.  Failures and success.  All meaningful to me in some way.  

I smile as the memories are evoked from the love letters that Jack and I wrote to each other as teenage sweethearts (We were so cute!). That love became a teenage pregnancy followed by all the unexpected responsibility that came with it at the tender young age of fifteen. I got pregnant as a teenager because of my promiscuity.  I’m not proud of that, but I keep all of the photos of that time in my life anyway. I learned many valuable lessons from that experience, devoted my life to building a deep meaningful love for the 17-year-old father, we added another son to our family 4 years later, and we now have 46 years together as husband and wife. Most of them great years, but not all of them. 

I have photos, cards, and memorabilia of my journeys through cancer, surgeries, and recoveries that followed. Happy times? No, but memorable, and very much life-changing for me. Memories of surviving cancer (twice) reminds me that true value can be found in each day, each moment, each person, and each memory. 

Jim Croce was one of my favorite singer-songwriters in the ‘70s.  His ballad Photographs and Memories is one that gets me every time.  The lyrics are sad, because he sings about someone he loved and lost.  

Photographs and memories. Christmas cards you sent to me. All that I have are these to remember you. Memories that come at night. Take me to another time back to a happier day. 

Loss is a part of life.  A part that is hard no matter which side of it you are on. Like the Kenny Chesney song says, "Everybody wants to go to heaven . . . nobody wants to go right now."

I lost my dad at 84 after suffering with him as his last years were ridden with dementia and illness. We lost him long before he died. I have photos of my dad with my sons who he loved with all his heart. After his passing, I was given a wooden box with his memories. It contained photos of him with my boys and letters that my sons had written their Grandpa. Memories. They meant a lot to him, and getting this box meant a lot to me too. Makes me cry even now. He’s gone, but not forgotten. I have memories.  Most of them good, but not all of them.

I have memories of my successes: photos, awards, ribbons, articles, books, and curriculums I have written, and many of my speaking engagements on cassette tapes.  Most of them are pretty good, but not all of them. Why do I keep them? They remind me of who I was, who I am now, and who I want to become. There are boxes full of past achievements, like graduating high school by returning to do 2.5 years of work in one year and graduating with my class (1976) after taking 1.5 years off while learning how to be a mother. That was a tough year; most of it was good, but not all of it.

When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it (Henry Ford)

Keep on beginning and failing. Each time you fail, start all over again, and you will grow stronger until you have accomplished a purpose not the one you began with perhaps, but one you’ll be glad to remember (Anne Sullivan).

Failure is a part of success.  A part we wish we could avoid on our way to success. I can’t go back in time, change events, erase what I am not proud of or the memories they evoke by tossing out the boxes that remind me of my failures, hardships, or hurts.  I can, however, learn from and find value in them as I seek to move more wisely into my future.  I have learned from many of my failures, hurts and hardships, but not all of them. Some, I don’t understand at all, but I will never forget them. 

Some hardships are outside of my control, but they still affect me in some way.  I will never understand how some believe that violence can defeat violence. I will never understand why country rises against country, or how a human can take the life of another human, or how the choice of a few can bring down a city, or a virus can bring a country to a halt. I can and will, however, remember the fallen and honor the memories as best I know how.  All of them.

The road is long, with some unexpected sharp turns, costly detours, and even some unfair dead-ends, but I believe that the journey itself is more important than the destination. You will meet many wonderful people along the way, and most of the experiences on the journey will be great, but not all of them. Remember them anyway.

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