I’ve spent a lot of time dwelling on family memories these past months. It’s amazing how much more valuable memories become when we lose someone we love. All of this has made me appreciate memories in a whole new light.
I had never really thought about memories as having value. And I suppose it’s true that some memories are more valuable than others. But at their core, memories are just mental recordings of the events of our lives. The recorder is always in the ‘on’ position, even though we can lose track of where those recordings are stored.
The easiest memories to recall are those that we replay frequently. That’s not necessarily a good thing. Many of us know the struggle of trying to forget events that were traumatic and personally disturbing. Yet we also know what it’s like to find our ‘happy place’ where we can dwell on pleasant memories.
Sometimes memories can provide a cheaper version of a movie night with loved ones. We say things like, “Remember when…” and then share fun memories of events that we have in common.
With five children you would think that I naturally have a rich library of family memories. But a rich library of family memories is only a reflection of a rich set of shared experiences. Those experiences are not guaranteed to happen naturally. This is one of those deep truths that just seems too obvious. In reality most of us rush through life without purposefully creating experiences that will someday be our greatest treasures.
Thankfully for me, Melanie was raised to cherish experiences over the accumulation of things. She brought into our family life a commitment to prioritize the things we do rather than the things we own. Sometimes that involved regular vacations and recreational activities. Sometimes we simply had a game night or an outing to midnight bingo with family and friends. And it helps that we can refresh our memories with the wealth of photos and videos that we were always taking.
Memories will accumulate no matter what, but valuable memories almost always require effort. They have to be created on purpose. And making memories on purpose usually means just doing the things that we know we should. We may even be personally inconvenienced. Even if it seems like a sacrifice at the time. Even if there are other things that we might rather be doing.
Our children were pleasant surprises that changed our lives, and to some degree the world, for the better. But we had to take the effort on purpose to spend time with them. We had to plan activities that ended up creating a vast treasure of memories. Now that Elijah is gone I ponder those treasured memories often.
We are all in good company. Mary the mother of Jesus was also surprised by her pregnancy. She learned from God’s messengers that her child would change the world. What did Mary purpose to do? She “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19).
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