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By Forrest Hershberger
View from the Handlebars 

Memories Are OK


December 15, 2021 | View PDF

We watched a version of “Scrooge” recently.

It was interesting in the comical sense. This year I caught someone saying Scrooge didn’t have a problem with Christmas; he had a problem with people. Maybe the lesson is Dr. Seuss, in all of his human frailties, continues to teach.

In the comic version of the previous generations, bitterness overruled the celebration. In the updated semi-human version, the outcast of the class grows into a hideous green monster, an easy reference. For whatever reason, green is referenced to envy.

Along the way, Scrooge, and the community at large, are schooled by a young girl who won’t stop asking questions. Her quest has her swimming against the tide of society as so many of Whoville, and many of us today, were focused on go big or not at all, even at the cost of maxing out another credit card.

It took losing all to change their hearts, and a dad who stood for his daughter.

It is a subtle but deep lesson. The best of heart conditions frequently come after losing all you held tightly.

A year ago, society had to do things differently. Media talked about Zoom Christmas dinners, and the value of staying home. Meanwhile, life moved on… including loss.

As the holiday approaches I’m seeing more and more promotions of “The Empty Chair” at Christmas, and similar poetry. The context is about being aware of those who are working through their first Christmas without a son, daughter, wife, husband, father, mother.

The mind searches for the familiar sound of a loved-one’s voice so aggressively even the body thinks you hear it. You look at the corner of the table where that person should be sitting and someone else is there. Over at the dessert table where your daughter would be playfully guarding the last slice of pumpkin pie is now covered with fruit pied and cookies.

Just a few days after the Pearl Harbor anniversary, I would offer the rest of us could learn from our military brothers and sisters who have a direct connection to Pearl Harbor and other events that resulted in loss. They have learned to remember their comrades, their fellow soldiers who paid the price, and still live in the present.

It isn’t foolproof from the civilian or military side. However the memories allow us who are still walking this earth to recall the smiles, the jokes, even the mishaps in life. Sometimes, the memories are what lights a smile on our faces.

We need to honor the memories, and live today and into the future in their honor. We need to recognize the human existence does not last forever. It is also unpredictable. We need to value each day, each relationship, as a gift. We never know when we, or they, will be expected to continue on the road alone; separated from the person who lit the fire in our hearts.

Remembering those we lost doesn’t mean a specific ritual. It means allowing yourself the time to remember, to visit one of the memories safely. It means if you best at the seat of memory, then OK. If you prefer a meal at the departed’s favorite cafe, the memories are just as real.

We have some of both. Jill was very passionate about her friends, to the point we bought meals for people she barely knew, but recognized they were in need. Once she told me a friend of her’s would probably be staying the night, on the couch, because his dad wouldn’t understand (he went out partying). Honestly, I didn’t get it, but that’s another story.

We also have become picky on what traditions we continue. Some were fun with the three of us, but have lost their luster since then.

Recently, PlainsWestCASA hosted Keche in concert. I did a little research before the concert, finding a video of her mom telling the story from a parent’s point of view. Her reaction to an early report that her daughter died on the plane is both harrowing and humbling. Paraphrased, she thanked God for the time she had her; no questions, no lingering hurt that she spoke of.

The lesson from her is, again, we’re not guaranteed tomorrow. We need to be less worried about tomorrow sunrise and more interested in today’s grilled cheese and soup dinner with our love, a walk in the park or movie with a friend. Find what enriches life, and follow it.


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