Learning To Live Again In Memory

Pleasure experienced in the past remains just that—pleasure past, swallowed up by the night of non-remembrance and lost forever. But the more vivid the memory, the more the past pleasure becomes a pleasant delight—Miroslav Volf

You never know exactly when a memory is going to come back to life. It just sort of happens.

On Monday night while the girls in my life were out for the night, Knox and I seized the moment for some quality boy-time. We didn’t have to go far, because half a mile away the boys of summer were in full swing.

We jumped in the car and pulled into a crowded parking lot at Jim Warren Park just as the players were receiving last minute instructions from their coaches. I opened the car door and it happened. Somewhere between the smell of fresh mown grass, the chalk, and the umpire yelling, “Play ball,” it all came rushing back. Pregame butterflies, rally hats, sunflower seeds, the ecstasy of success, and yes – the agony of defeat. In a moment, I was 12 years old again, having the time of my life, playing the game I love.

Memories are amazing things. They’ll catch you unawares and take you back to places and situations long past, not just to remember them but to re-experience them. Unlike historical study, memory does not provide the luxury of contemplating facts from a distance but rather draws us into those past experiences in such a way where we “live in them” once again.

Truth be told, sometimes we don’t know how strong the presence of the past is within us until the memories reappear. At least that’s always been the case for me. Indeed, the liveliness of my own past startles me at times, especially when the memories come with such energy and force that I sense I’m revisiting my former self in a former life, and in so doing re-knowing what I’m really made of. It seems the collective memory of long ago is not very far away after all. As William Faulkner observed, “The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.” 

When we give into the memories and allow others to share in them with us, especially the rising generation, we invite that memory to live on in someone else. As Christians, we are always entrusting the past, its truth and experience, to those who come after us. We send our children and grandchildren out like ambassadors from a bygone era to keep memory alive by memory making all over again into a future we will never see.

As the sound of cleats on concrete combined with the shrill of the PA system and the announcer welcoming everyone to the ballpark, I awoke from the memory dream to feel a little hand take mine. I looked down to find a freckle faced, redheaded boy smiling back at me. “You ready, Daddy?” I smiled back meaningfully. “You bet, buddy. You bet.”

Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you—Deuteronomy 32:7

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