A Backward Glance

10:39 PM

Do you remember how you felt looking out at the dogwood blossoms opening outside the cafeteria window at 7:32 am on a Monday morning? Do you remember the exact inflection in the joke that made you keel over  laughing on Friday night, 11:56? Do you remember the thoughts running through your head as you walked the same path from Kendall to the student union at 2:27 PM after your Thursday class? Where were you on April 23, 2013 at 10:33 AM?

What made you pick out your clothes this morning? Can you recall the look on your best friend's face? How about the warmth spreading between you and another person as you hug goodnight? Can you count the freckles on your little sister's face? How differently does the left corner of your brother's mouth smile than the right corner? Could you repeat the euphoria the first time he said I love you, the first time she said You're my best friend? Do you remember that moment when you loved someone so much that you were getting desperate from lack of ideas of how to express that emotion?

This semester is almost over. All the conversations, the late-night shenanigans, the hugs, the tears, those moments of breakthrough. So many, many people, many, many friendships. 

What will they mean ten years from now? Ten weeks? Ten days? 

I don't remember what happened five years ago at 6:34 PM. Was it important? I don't remember everything my professor told me today. I don't remember how many tears filled a friend's eyes for me as I struggled to find freedom. I don't remember how many times a friend told me I love you. I don't remember being tucked in as a three-year-old, don't remember how it felt when my daddy scooped me into his arms and princess carried me to my room because I passed out before bedtime. I barely remember kissing my mom goodnight, feeling her hands enclose around mine, whispering a song about shepherds and lambs while the warm lamplight filled a small corner of the snug room. 

I don't remember what happened to all the notes in the birthday cards I tucked somewhere several weeks after the balloons deflated (I never was good at putting things away). I forget the landscapes, the cities, the people I passed while I pressed my nose against the red van's window pane and whiled away the boring trip from Texas to Wisconsin. I remember arguing with my seven-year-old best friend over whether a rabbit's foot was actually good luck; I remember sharing Jesus with her, but all I see are two girls in a tree with a pink Precious Moments Bible. I can't hear what they're saying. I sent her a message eleven years later, but she didn't remember me, her best friend from a long time ago, a time when we loved each other.

Apparently we tore up the lawn next to the cramped base house in Nebraska, tore it up because we sledded down the side hill in the winter and rolled wagons down it in the summer. The next-door neighbor told us to be quiet. Later I tried to sell her a Dixie cup full of lemonade for $25. She gave me a quarter. I don't remember her name or her boy's name, though I see her standing on the sidewalk in front of our lemonade table, holding her little boy's hand. She had short, short hair and capris. 

Sometimes it scares me, when we sit in the living room, as many Bergmanns who want to stay up to insane hours reminiscing, when we sit there and relive the past. This and that happened just like this, someone will say, but No! someone else will chime in, you're forgetting this part or Are you sure that happened? I think you made that up. Mom will tell me stories of things I said and did as a kid. I told her I didn't think I was saved at age 7, when I first professed Christ, because I didn't really know anything. "Bailey," she told me, a pained look on her face, "yes, you did. You came to me and said, 'I know now that if I was the only person in the world, Jesus still would have died for me.'" I didn't remember that. I needed to remember that.

I needed to remember, because memories are all this life is. Yesterday is a shadowland of once-upon-a-time. Yesterday this person loved you. Yesterday you loved that person back. Yesterday you were this kind of person because she loved you and you loved her. Now that you barely remember her name, barely remember what you did, you aren't the same person anymore. 

Is that the way it's supposed to be? Is there ever a forever-love, a forever-friend, a forever-feeling or thing or person that lasts as long as life does, that goes on forever, that doesn't get sent to the shadowlands, to be forgotten, to have no effect on you? I won't remember most of the names of the people I go to school with. I might have an eighteen-year-old daughter someday, nervous to go off to college, and she'll ask me to tell her stories of when I was eighteen -- and will I remember? Will I be able to tell her about how the arrangement of my Lucky Charms demonstrated Communistic tendencies, about how my science professor threw notebooks in a fit of anger, about that one night when we stayed way to late in Saga watching a battle of the puns between Gibbs and Wes Wright? Will I remember how long it took to walk down lower right to reach my door plastered with "Hey, Girl" memes and Doctor Who pictures (because my roomie loves Doctor Who)? Or will I only be able to say, "It was an amazing experience. You'll do just great."

I don't remember high school. I barely remember my friends from last year. I can't recall all the ridiculous conversations shouted out over a fierce game of Mexican Train or Hearts, can't remember all the times I spent laughing with my siblings, can't remember all the hard nights when God showed Himself to me.

I must remember, somehow. To forget is to die to that thing, to untether something you used to love. Is there room enough for the present, the future and the past? Were we made to forget? Or are we called to remember, and remember well?

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10 impressions

  1. Um, well you wrote everything down on this blog so just go back and read it. I remember those things just from reading your blog for 2 years now. Not that much has changed.

  2. This. Post.

    I've been thinking about this a lot lately. We anticipate a visit for so long, then it's here, we blink, and all of a sudden we are left standing there with nothing but a handful of memories. Cherished gifts break, animals die, places change, people move on... The only thing that is certain in life is that it never remains the same. All you have - all you REALLY have - is memories when you leave this earth. Sometimes it pays to remember indeed, to remember.

    Thankyou so much for sharing.

  3. Oh Bailey, you're making me cry ... you've written a lot of beautiful posts, but this must be one of your best. I know exactly how you feel. There are so many dreams, so many people, so many accomplishments - even so many tiny things, like noticing the way the sunlight hits a bird's wing - that are just like sand slipping through our fingers. Every grain is precious; and yet we can only hold onto a tiny fraction of the total that runs through our hands.

    I don't know the answer to your question, how much we should remember. I do know that my early-childhood salvation experience is much like yours, and that I rely on my mom's memories as well as my own to have a complete picture of that time. I also know that there is so much that passes by us every day that is beautiful, monumental, important, and sacred; and I know that there's no way we can remember everything. But how much should we remember? I don't know. More than we do, I think; but perhaps not as much as we think we should. Or perhaps more ... surely if people remembered more smiles and sunsets and late-night gigglefests, they would realize how wonderful life really is!

    Thank you so much for this beautiful post to start my day, Bailey!! I'm so glad to have you posting again! :-)

    Lots of love,

  4. A good reminder. I must write things down more, because it would be too sad to forget anything.

  5. Anonymous, you just proved my point. The things I repeat over and over are the ONLY things I remember. What about the other things that happened in almost 19 years of life? I don't even remember what I'm supposed to remember. That's partly why I blog...to remember, and to remember to remember.


    ~ RacheL H.

  7. Yes, there is one forever, never changing, always friend - our Lord Jesus Christ. Write things down, and remember, but in moderation, knowing that God holds the moments in His hands, that they have served their purpose and now they are gone because they have served their purpose.

  8. wow. this is so profound, bailes. totally know how you feel.

  9. If I'm honest with myself, I'd have to say that forgetting, and being forgotten by, those dear to me are two of my most deep-seated fears; thus why memory has become such a recurring theme in my poetry, why my fiction, as it's developed, includes characters drawn on my dearest acquaintances as I fondly remember them, and why songs like Simon and Garfunkel's "Bookends" ("... Long ago it must be, I have a photograph; preserve your memories, they're all that's left you.") resonate so strongly with me. (Though perhaps this is all just a symptom of my melancholic tem

    But all this should be of little account; what's most important in the long run is whether we remember God and what he has done for us, and even more so whether (and how) God remembers us. So I am comforted by the promise (in Isaiah 49, which I understand to apply to the Church): "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!" and the familiar passage in Jeremiah that he "will remember their sins no more."

    And, in my clearest moments, there's a line in the Screwtape Letters that worries me henever I read it: "Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present. With this in view, we sometimes tempt a human (say a widow or a scholar) to live in the Past." (That and the line about "the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.") Because that is, and has been, the danger for me.

    The questions with which you closed this post are good ones. But I'd have to answer them "Yes and no." Forgetting is a kind of death (an excellent insight that had never occurred to me), and we are made for life. But because of what we are in this world, being sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, coming to life means a lot of painful dying. We have to die to sin, put our "flesh" to death, and "take up [our] cross daily." Similarly, I think, we need to wholeheartedly and permanently forget our pernicious and (alas!) beloved habits of sinning and selfishness---but if Jesus remembers us, then no matter what we have forgotten and lost, the gain was well worth that cost.

  10. You just put into words what I'm feeling right now. It's so hard to let go. A quote that's helped me in a shoving get it together sort of way:

    "Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death." ~Ananias Nin


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