Oliver Wendell Holmes said that memory is like a fish net. When you drag it through the right part of…
Oliver Wendell Holmes said that memory is like a fish net. When you drag it through the right part of the river it fills with fish, but a dozen miles of water have run through it without sticking. Funny, isn’t it, what our minds catch and latch onto, and what passes through only to be forgotten downstream?
When I lived in Minneapolis, I would drive through town on Interstate 35-W a few times a week. Sometimes I’d be vaguely conscious of the fact that I was passing by the cemetery where my grandfather was buried. Most of the time I was hustling by on the way to something, the cemetery merely a part of the passing landscape.
But sometime around Memorial Day weekend I would exit from the flow of traffic, and pull my car into the secluded sanctuary of Hillside Cemetery, which is nestled oddly like a haven among mature trees in the heart of the city. I am not familiar with most of that sprawling graveyard, but I know one particular part of it very well. Merely parking near that old tree and walking the short distance up the small rise brings back a flood of memory. Here is where Grandparents are laid to rest. Here also is where we stood, stunned in cold February winds with our hands on a wooden box when we buried my cousin Phil, who was like a brother to me before cancer surprised us.
I went there to fill my net with fish. Intentionally slowing from the traffic lanes of life to think, allowing my memory to recall the people and love and stories that are attached to the ones now deceased always helps me remember who I am. Memory is an incredible gift of God. It is like a living diary of our days, to which we may turn periodically to relive what has been. And what might have been. Memory brings back joy, pain, sorrow, and hope. It’s all in there, in the net.
I suppose one can draw too frequently from the bank of memory, living only in the past, wistfully whimpering about the good old days and pining for a world gone by. But I think there is an even greater danger in ignoring the past, allowing only water to pass through and never the fat fish of good times, great people, and history’s gifts.
This Memorial Day weekend, we will party at our house, celebrating our son Nathan’s high school graduation as he embarks on his future. But at the same time, we’ll be dipping our nets into the river in order to pull out some of the memories of others who have graduated from Life but who continue to school us. Karla’s Dad, freshly arrived in glory, is one we’ll celebrate especially much. I hope you allow God to sanctify your memory this weekend as well.
Be grateful for memory. It is a gift. I encourage you to receive this holiday as an invitation to pull out of the fast lane long enough to be thankful for others. We can thank God for soldiers who have done brave things on our behalf. We can thank God for pioneers of the faith who have paved a spiritual path for us. I hope you will celebrate the people and memories that have enriched your life. Put your net in the water where the fish are, and reflect on the saints and sinners who have come and gone in your life, and praise God for the ability to remember.