That was the hardest part.
The woman who gave me life and then guarded that life with her life couldn’t remember what she had dubbed me when my life began.
Mom worked tirelessly to make “home” unforgettable for her five children and gaggle of grandchildren by etching it permanently into our psyches with sights, sounds and smells that defined “love” for us.
Then like a window washer dangling on a scaffold outside her mind, Alzheimer’s cruelly scrubbed those memories from view one at a time until nothing remained.
She simply forgot to remember.
When our daughter got her first tattoo it was a small pink daisy. I asked why that flower, she said it was because that was her favorite. Then I noticed she had inked in one of the petals three tiny letters.
My mother’s initials.
Lauren’s explanation was simple: “Grandma forgot me. I never want to forget her.”
Most of us who have been so personally impacted by the dreadful diseases of dementia have a fear that one day it may “get” us too. Any small memory snafu raises red warning flags that we may be suffering the first stages or signs. But my greatest fear is not losing my physical memory.
Instead it is what I call Alzheimer’s of the soul: ingratitude.
I lose gratitude when I lose perspective.
The worst choices and biggest mistakes of my life have grown in emotional soil tainted by the poison of un-thankfulness. Every time my thinking is skewed by the myopic view of life in the hard times, I forget the manifold ways life has been good to me. The trees get too large and the forest disappears.
I simply forget to remember.
Like the single leper whom Jesus cleansed, when we truly recall the good that undeservedly happens in our lives, we can do nothing less than “kneel at Jesus’ feet, so grateful”. (Luke 17:11-19) The new-every-morning mercies of God deserve the daily sacrament of a whispered “thank you”.
And this remembering isn’t just God-ward.
The rugged old Apostle Paul said that every time he remembered the friends with whom he had shared life and Kingdom in Ephesus he “couldn’t stop thanking God”. (Ephesians 1:16, MSG) The spectacular and costly blessing of relationship whether based on blood or covenant merit the living tributes of a grateful heart.
Gratitude never forgets.
Each time a sacred season or family holiday is celebrated, it acts as an Ebenezer for my mind. That’s the name Samuel gave to the “stone of help” he raised in gratitude for the miraculous victory God gave Israel over the unquestionably superior forces of the Philistines.
It was designed so that they would not forget to remember.
Thanksgiving exists so we never lose track of what transforms living into life. It insures we stop to recall who made a difference, what really matters and the real stuff that has shaped our lives to this present moment.
We give thanks because of each remembered moment of costly love, miraculous provision, realized hope, forgiven offense and restored dream.
Paul encouraged the Colossians to “cultivate thankfulness”. (Colossians 3:15-16, MSG) Gratitude is neither automatic nor natural to our selfish natures. The tendency toward entitlement and the distractions of prosperity erode our sense of humility and appreciation.
Today we are encouraged to step back, take a longer view of life. Drink deeply from the well of memories and give thanks for each person, every circumstance and any gift that has made your life richer and fuller.
Embrace the love of family, friends and the Father.
Then breathe a deep, soul-generated “Thank You” for it all.