Memory is selective. We all know that.
Why then do I continue to be amazed by the power of positive memory to shift our mindset?
In my previous post, I wrote about my grandmother, how she finally died after years of living with Alzheimer’s (if you call this living). I didn’t speak at her funeral, but did write a few words about the way I wanted to remember her.
I want to remember my grandmother in better days. When she and my grandfather lived on Robin Road in a beautiful old Tudor, where the maple trees grew tall and arched. I want to remember her puttering in her apron and pastel slippers, singing aloud some unknown tune, always with the words dah dah dah. I want to remember how she set the table days before family gatherings. She hardly sat during such meals; she was too busy attending to everyone else. “Eat bubelah,” she’d say. I want to remember my grandmother’s ironing and the calm it brought her each morning. I want to remember her calling with news that she’d found yet another bargain.
These are the memories I choose to remember. Not the grandmother whose mind betrayed her, but the person she was – and will always remain for me.
Similarly, I choose now to remember my first husband before his long war with cancer. These are the pictures of him we display. The same holds for dear friends, surrogate Denver parents, who died within a year apart of one another. Earlier memories of them alight in my mind, and it’s these images that keep them a glowing presence for me as I’ve built a new life here.
We, the living, are more endowed than we realize to summon only those memories of loved ones that please us. Which is not to say we should ignore denial or bypass mourning. It’s just that time begets grace, and grace, I think, is what elevates the personal, allowing us to feel connected to those we have loved and lost, and part of the bigger world.
Years ago I read a passage by C.S. Lewis that has stayed with me. “And suddenly, at the very moment when, so far, I mourned H. least, I remembered her best. Indeed it was something (almost) better than memory…To say it was like a meeting would be going too far. Yet there was that in it which tempts to use those words. It was as though the lifting of the sorrow removed a barrier.”