Quick note: I’d like to dedicate this week’s blog post to Linda Sisk, my father-in-law’s grandmother who passed away this weekend. While I never had the privilege of meeting her in person, I think it’s fitting that this article be written in her name. She was a wonderful, loving woman who left her family with many precious moments to remember her by. Please keep Stephen and his family in mind as they celebrate Linda’s life and mourn her passing this week.
It’s funny the things we forget. Not long ago, Katherine and I were talking, and I was trying to remember how long some friends of ours had been married. Were they coming up on their third anniversary? Or was it their fourth? I tried to reconstruct a timeline and piece the events together, but I just couldn’t do it.
I could remember flashes of individual moments. I remembered meeting them for the first time. I remembered being in their wedding. I remembered helping them move and staying with them their first night in their new house. I remembered meeting their son for the first time. (Is he two or three now?) But trying to put all of those flashes into a coherent timeline with years and dates was impossible without checking my calendar, which fortunately is quite detailed.
Truth be told, those events don’t feel like they took place all that long ago. I can remember them like they happened just yesterday: where I was, what I saw, how I was feeling. These memories, like many others, are so very strong in my mind because they’re precious to me. But our little exercise of trying to piece them all together made me realize how quickly I’ve become removed from them.
It’s one of the many paradoxes of the human brain: I can remember those moments like they just happened, but they also feel like they took place such a long time ago. I can recall pieces, but my brain has moved on from the details. I’m in such a different place now than I was then that it almost feels like it was a different person who did all of those things. Nevertheless, the memories are mine.
If you had asked me at the time, “Will you remember this?” my answer would undoubtedly have been, “Of course! How could I possibly forget this?” I like to think that I’ve got a pretty good memory, and those moments were very important to me. There’s no way I’d ever forget them. And that’s true to an extent. But over time, the finer details faded, and all that I’m left with now are the flashes.
I can recall feeling so proud and excited for my friend as I stood next to him in that chapel on his wedding day. But off the top of my head, I couldn’t tell you the date or time, details that mattered so much to me then. I couldn’t tell you the music that was played or the food that we ate. All I can tell you is that I was there, and I’m so thankful that I’ll always be able to say that I was a part of it.
I never pictured myself being one of those people who would reminisce and struggle to remember the details of when, where, and who, especially not in my twenties. But the older I get and the more I experience, the more I find myself holding on to the flashes and losing my grip of the details. What start out as vivid experiences eventually become distant memories—fond as they may be—and that’s not something I expected.
Hopefully this doesn’t come off as a lament. I realize that this is a perfectly normal part of life, and I’m not necessarily sad about it. I suppose I do find it a little disconcerting, though. And I don’t want to simply leave it there. Surely there’s something I can learn from this realization, right?
That’s something I’m still trying to figure out, but here’s what I’ve come up with so far: I want to recognize right now that someday soon, the things I’m experiencing today will all become nothing more than memories. No matter how wonderful or terrible or exciting or bland or in-between they may be, every experience I have is going to fade with time. The details will be lost forever, and all I’ll have left are the flashes.
And that inspires me to appreciate every moment even more. Because it’s fleeting. Even if I don’t want to admit it, I won’t always have this moment to hold onto. One day, it will be gone, so if I’m ever going to cherish it, I’d better do it now while I still have the chance.
This realization also makes me want to do a better job of documenting my memories. There are lots of ways of doing so: photos, journals, calendars, and more. Some people are really good at this, but I’m really, really not. That’s something I’d like to improve on, and writing this article might just be the motivation I need to start.
I don’t want to forget these precious moments. I want to do all I can to ensure that the flashes I do get to keep are as full as possible, and that they stay with me for as long as possible. If a bumpy trip down memory lane was what it took to help me realize that and do something about it, then I’d say it was well worth it. And if any of my ramblings have inspired you to make the most of your moments, too, then it’s even that much more so.
Here’s to cherishing every moment, to making memories worth keeping, and to enjoying those flashes for a long time to come. Thanks for reading, friends, and I’ll see you next week.