“NO! As long as I’m a-hurtin’ I know I’m alive!”
—“Big Daddy” Pollit, refusing morphine for pain of terminal cancer,
paraphrased from Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
“I had rather remember and hurt than forget and be numb.”
Someone much more knowledgeable and renowned than I once observed that God gave us a memory so we could enjoy roses in December. I’m sure there is a great deal of truth in that statement. A memory is a marvelous thing, a wonderful gift. But at the same time it must be noted that a memory, like a heart, is a mixed blessing.
Do you recall the sage words spoken by the Wizard of Oz to the Tin Man who so desired to have a heart? “You don’t want a heart, my friend,” the Wizard very astutely observed. “They are very impractical things, you know. They’re much too easily broken.”
For, you see, in order for a heart to be sensitive to the plight of others, it must necessarily be sensitive also to the slight of others. There is no such thing as callous compassion. If we are to be touched by the hurts of others, we must ourselves be liable to hurt.
Just as an iron butterfly remains forever beautiful, but also forever cold, so an armor-plated heart effectively shields against pain, but it also effectively eliminates all possibility of pleasure. Or sympathy. Or compassion. Only that which is vulnerable is ever valuable.
Life is reciprocal and cyclical. It is quite literally true that what goes around, comes around. Thus, we cannot remember the roses of June in the dead of winter, without also recalling the chill of December in the bloom of summer. Whenever we open our hearts to love, we open ourselves to lose. When we open our minds to remember the good, we also let in the bad. Laughter and tears travel the same circuit.
To some, the answer to painful memories is to keep the door of remembrance firmly and forever fastened. That is one solution, I suppose. But I don’t think it works. Even if it did, I wouldn’t adopt it. And for a very good reason: You can’t grow flowers in a closet.
No, I remember it all—the good and the bad, the sweet and the bitter, the pleasure and the pain, the victories and the defeats. And when I do, sometimes I laugh, and sometimes I weep. But I do remember. And remembering, I feel. That’s the important thing, to feel. Because as long as I still feel—whether it is pleasure or pain—I know I’m still alive, still aware, still sensitive.
That’s why God gave us a memory. So we wouldn’t forget to care.
November 30, 1982
Quotes on Memory and Memories
(set in regular type with emphasis in italic)
“The farther South you go, the longer the memory and the shorter the fuse.”
“Down home all the roads are paved with memories.” (At the time of life in which I am losing my memory, God seems to be restoring all my memories.)
“I’m so old I can remember when Wonder Bread built strong bodies only three ways.”
“I’ve got to that stage in life where the only things I can remember are the things I cannot stand to recall.” (That’s funny, I don’t recall losing my memory . . . well, duh!)
“If I can remember, I’m going to write my autobiography and call it ‘Gone with the Mind.’” (I’ve got to remember to pick up a mind at Wal-Mart, but if I could ever remember to do that, I wouldn’t need it.)
“The only two things I ever had going for me were my mind and my time—and now I’m losing both!” (See next quote.)
“My lack of remembrance
has been my great hindrance,
and left me in dark despair.
If I had been bettin’
On me forgettin’,
I’d now be a billionaire!”
“You can close your eyes to reality but not to memories.”
—Stanislaw J. Lec, Polish author (1909-1966),
Thought for the Day, Sapulpa Daily Herald, nd
“If it weren’t for flashbacks, I wouldn’t have any memory at all.”
—Bumper sticker seen in Sapulpa, Oklahoma
“Things I’ve Learned After It Was Too Late.”
“A whole stock of memories will never equal one little hope. . . I kind of like that.”
—Snoopy, typing on top of his doghouse,
Peanuts cartoon, Tulsa World, nd
“It is perhaps the memories of our lives that make us who we are.”
—Unidentified writer of devotional for Wednesday,
November 25, 2009, in Episcopal Forward Day by Day
“ . . . so much of what the South is about is remembrance anyway.”
—Mississippi author Willie Morris as quoted by
Philip Martin, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist
“‘Think’ and ‘thank’ come from the same root. One cannot be thankful without thinking, recalling, remembering the things God has given us and done for us. Jesus took bread, gave thanks, and said, ‘Take, eat . . . do this in remembrance of me.’”
—Unidentified writer of devotional for Thanksgiving Day,
Thursday, November 26, 2009, in Episcopal Forward Day by Day
“They [memories] cut both ways. There’s no way to forget the worst pains, but nothin’ gives you the same kind of pleasure as rememberin’ your greatest happiness.”
—Elvis Presley, quoted on desk calendar
“Darling, I guess my mind’s more at ease, nevertheless why stir up memories?”
—Line from song “Don’t Get Around Much Any More”
“The richness of life lies in the memories we have forgotten.”
—“Remember When . . . A Nostalgic Look Back in Time,”
booklet produced by Seek Publishing, 1956
“Leave the kids with great memories.”
—Advertisement slogan for Arkansas, the Natural State
“Someday all you may have left . . . are memories that make you smile.”
—Andrea Eger, “Godfather a precious memory for a smile,”
Tulsa World, June 15, 2009
“A great part of knowing where we’re heading is remembering where we came from.”
—Southwestern Bell ad in Sapulpa
Daily Herald sometime in 2000
“Remember who you are.”
—My mother’s last words to me
whenever I would leave home
“When you can’t remember why you’re hurt, that’s when you’re healed.”
“Comfort food has always been about fond memories, the sensory memories of food reminding you of a place, a time, a person.”
—Chef Leslie Bilderback, quoted by Natalie Mikles
in “Comfortably yum,” Tulsa World, March 18, 2000
“Either way, what I know for sure is that all I had to do to discover that spirit was not to look or listen or taste or feel. All I had to do was remember; for what I was looking for I somehow already knew.”
—Bruce Feller, “The Bible: Myth or Truth?”
USA Weekend, March 9-11, 2001
“ . . . But even today’s generation feels a somber tug to the mysterious past, an inexplicable pull to a homeland they know only through family stories, . . . a ‘genetic memory’. . . . Perhaps the most touching words that speak of hope are [these] . . . ‘A people without a past are a people without a future.’”
—Dana Adkins Campbell, “Celebrating a Homeland,”
in the August 2000 issue of Southern Living
“Most of us have no desire to go back and recapture the old times. We have invested too much in what counts for us now, but when something familiar comes to our ears, or a certain fragrance touches our memory, then we recall a part of us that remains in the past. . . . Sometimes it takes the familiar for us to appreciate what we have today.”
—Joyce Hifler in Think on These Things column,
Tulsa World, December 7, 2000
“. . . and they [the national parks] remain a refuge for human beings seeking to replenish their spirit, geographies of memory and hope, where countless American families have forged an intimate connection to the land, and then passed it along to their children.”
—Quoted from Ken Burns’ TV series The National Parks
“Try as you might, you simply cannot remember everything that you have experienced—not yesterday, not a week ago, and certainly not when you were a child. . . . What memories we do hold on to are like the broken bits of ancient pottery, long buried in the sand. Yet, these fragments of memory can give us precious clues about our personalities. . . . We rely on our memories to tell ourselves who we are, to anchor us. People who have lost their memories . . . are condemned to drift through life. . . . Autobiographical memories—the memories of what we have experienced and done in our lives—are at once indispensable and notoriously untrustworthy.”
—Robert Needlman. M.D., F.A.A.P., “Digging into Your Personal Past: What early memories tell us about who we are today,” http://www.drspock.com/article/0,1510,6054,00.html – 30k,
accessed August 30, 2001
“I think that deep in our DNA is this embedded memory of when we were not separated from the rest of the natural world, but we were part of it. The Bible talks about the Garden of Eden as that experience that we had at the beginnings of our dimmest memories as a species. . . . So when we enter a [national] park we’re entering a place where an attempt at least has been made to keep it like it once was. We cross that boundary and suddenly we are no longer masters of the natural world, we are part of it. And in that sense it’s like we’re going home. It doesn’t matter where we’re from, we’ve come back to a place that is where we came from.”
—Writer Dayton Duncan, quoted in
Ken Burns’ TV series The National Parks
(To view a video of Willie Nelson singing this song, click here.)
Precious memories, unseen angels,
Sent from somewhere to my soul;
How they linger, ever near me,
And the sacred past unfold.
Precious father, loving mother,
Fly across the lonely years;
And old home scenes of my childhood,
In fond memory appears.
In the stillness of the midnight,
Echoes from the past I hear;
Old time singing, gladness bringing,
From that lovely land somewhere.
As I travel on life’s pathway,
Know not what the years may hold;
As I ponder, hope grows fonder,
Precious memories flood my soul.
Precious memories, how they linger,
How they ever flood my soul;
In the stillness of the midnight,
Precious, sacred scenes unfold.
Music & Lyrics by J.B.F. Wright
© 1996 Stamps-Baxter Music & Printing Co.
FORTUNES IN MEMORIES
(To hear this song sung by Ernest Tubb,
one of my father’s favorite Western singers, click here.)
I’ve got fortunes in memories
Of your walk, your talk, your smile.
I’ve got treasures of heartaches,
And old dreams out of style.
I’ve got bundles of broken vows
Collected through the years.
I’ve got fortunes in memories,
And they all were bought with tears.
All my life I’ve been in love
With you and now you’re gone.
All I own is memories
Of you that linger on.
In some ways you left me nothing
But the loser’s share.
In some ways I guess I am
A sort of millionaire.
Take the pretty little lies
You told me one by one.
Take the careless, cruel things,
The sweet things you have done.
Count them all as loss and
They are more than I can bear.
Count them all as memories
And I am a millionaire.
Written and sung by Ernest Tubb
(Sung by Elvis in all his later concerts.
To hear Elvis sing this song and view
photos from his life, click here.)
Memories, pressed between the pages of my mind
Memories, sweetened thru’ the ages just like wine
Quiet thoughts come floating down
And settle softly to the ground
Like golden autumn leaves around my feet
I touch them and they burst apart with
Of holding hands and red bouquets
And twilights trimmed in purple haze
And laughing eyes and simple ways
And quiet nights and gentle days with you
Words and music by Billy Strange and Scott Davis
THE [MEMORY] CLOSET
As I meet the new things in life,
I put the old away,
placing the worn-out yesteryears
where they will not decay.
On a shelf in a memory closet,
I store the misty past,
along with other bygone years
that faded all too fast.
There is a spot for sorrow,
and a place for joy and glee,
and a special place used only
for the things most dear to me.
I have a spot reserved for my childhood days,
those happy carefree years,
when life seemed bright and hopeful
and not much room for tears.
At times I delve into this spot
known just to me alone,
and it is always sure to take me back
to a used-to-be I have known.
It’s a search in my memory closet,
and old scenes come back to view.
It is like an endless movie
from the old things to the new.
So when I am tired and lonely
and my life seems filled with care,
I search in my memory closet
and find consolation there.
—Dan Webster (born December 12, 1883)