As Memory Serves…
Honoring the Past, Living the Present and Preparing for the Future
I spent most of this Memorial Day weekend with a dear friend who has suffered more than her share of loss over the past several years. We were moving her into a new fantastic apartment, one that holds the promise of a bright future.
She is resilient, my beautiful friend, and she is optimistic. She sees potential and opportunity everywhere.
She is also human.
Like every human, her memories are dappled with light and shadowed by loss. Like every human, those shadows take hold of her sometimes, making the present seem dark and the future look obscured and blurry.
And like it is for every human, moving forward through the shadows into the light is complicated.
As we unpacked the boxes of her past, old love notes, mementos, and reminders were everywhere. Her old life was slowly flowing into her new one.
Over and over, we faced difficult choices, choices that we all make every day.
What do we keep and what do we let go?
It’s a question further complicated by the fear of losing more than we’ve already lost. It's a question entangled with the guilt of wanting to move forward, to forge ahead into something new and beautiful.
We’ve been made to believe that there is integrity, decency, and nobility in holding on. That holding on is in some way honoring the past, honoring the lives of those we loved and continue to love regardless of their absence.
Like all limiting beliefs, there is a seed of truth there.
The past comes alive through the memories of the living. An accounting of those who have long left this world is passed along through items, yes, but they are also carefully preserved through the stories we tell.
How, then, do we fulfill the sacred role of curating the past without sacrificing the future? How to we honor all life by living every moment of our own fully?
Living in Service of Life
There is not an old life or a new life. There is only your life and that life only exists in the present moment.
There is a difference between pain and suffering. The pain of loss is completely unavoidable and any attempt to deny it is sure to show up in some other way. It can feel as light as a twinge in the gut or as heavy as a thunderbolt that brings you to your knees. This pain is a natural part of life.
There is no honor in suffering. While pain is unavoidable, suffering is a choice. Suffering is simply the story that you tell yourself about pain.
“What might have…” and other stories like them only serve to exacerbate pain, extending it, intensifying it and allowing it to distort both the past and the present. And in some cases, this story will rob us of the future.
While it’s difficult to stop telling yourself stories about your pain, to learn to not suffer, it is possible.
This weekend I watched my friend do that very thing.
I sat and held space for her as she unpacked each item. Sometimes, pain washed over her.
And as that pain passed (that’s a funny thing about pain, it actually passes rather quickly when it’s not fastened to a story), we asked of each item, “Do you serve to honor the past, or will you trigger a story that causes my friend to suffer?”
The items gave us clear answers. And those that triggered suffering, even those that represented beautiful moments, we blessed – thanked them for their beauty and service – and then we let those items go.
This Memorial Day, I send my love to each of you here with me, in this moment. I send my deep appreciation and thanks to those whose lives have passed knowing that this moment only exists as it does because of them. And I ask you to join me in living each day, each moment, fully alive, bravely playing all in with gratitude and love and hope and promise so that we too, will shape what lies ahead.