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I’m glad you remembered: Connecting past to present

By DAVID WHITLOCK

Five sat at the table, including me.

The other four, including my mom, were residents in the retirement center’s assisted living section.

It was Mom’s first meal in her new environment, having moved the day before from her independent living unit, where she and Dad had been before his death, to a much smaller room in assisted living. Mom’s physical limitations had made the move necessary.

Sitting next to Mom at the table, I felt like a parent with a child in a new school, hoping she would adjust to an unfamiliar place with different people and a new routine.

One lady, Faye, remembered Mom from the independent living dining hall.

“I remember you,” Faye spoke softly to Mom. “Your husband always seemed so proud of you, and everyone loved him. You would always have on slacks, a pretty blouse, and a matching scarf. I remember those matching scarfs.”

Mom’s broad smile signaled her approval.

“I’m glad you remember that,” Mom spoke the words slowly, deliberately.

After a long pause, Mom stared at Faye for a few seconds, studying her, like Mom was trying to place Faye. “I remember your husband,” Mom said. “He was so concerned that the grass wasn’t being properly watered and wanted to take care of it.”

It was Faye’s turn to grin, “Yes, he wanted to make sure the grass around here was cared for. When we lived in McCoy (TX.), he would water our grass, and when we moved here — well, I finally had to set him out a water hose, so he could water.”

After a long pause, she looked directly at Mom, “I’m glad you remember that.”

Remembering, connecting to the past, can help us move forward, for memories of what has been can strengthen us for the present moment.

As writer Joann Didion said, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”

And when someone tells a story that connects us with someone we love who is now gone, it’s like it brings that person back to life. Suddenly, we are nourished; we gain strength; we can look forward, knowing the past mattered in some significant, even some eternal way.

Christians, of all people, should get this, for we participate in a gathering of remembrance around a table, the Lord’s table, regularly.

And sometimes we repeat the words of Paul, the Apostle, quoting Jesus: “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (I Corinthians 11:24).

The table brings us together, and there we are nourished and strengthened by the memory, the memory that is alive and real, the memory that itself is like the refresh button on your computer: it renews, taking you back by creating in the memory, a redo for the present and a hope for the future.

Maybe for you it’s that kitchen or dining room table. It’s the place where you gather, break bread, and remember. The table itself takes on life, for it prompts the memory that brings back what once was, and it hangs there before you, with you in that moment, touching you in the deepest part of your being.

Dinner is now done. I’m taking Mom back to her room in her wheel chair, and as I shuffle along at what seems to me a snail’s pace, I’m sighing a breath of relief that Mom has discovered some new friends and reconnected with one almost forgotten.

Then, glancing back at the now empty table, I see them, like they’re still there, those ladies, eating their lunch with such slow deliberation, those ladies with so much of their past pressing ever so forcefully into their present that they struggle to articulate it, those ladies, who were once where I am, helping their mommas and daddies, those ladies who gathered at the table, and I can’t help but whisper back to them, “I’m glad you remembered.”