On Memorial Day we are asked to pause and remember those who lost their lives in service. I spent last weekend with a man who has lost much of his memory. As a member of ROTC and the Los Angeles police force in his younger days, his service credentials are well established.
His mind is losing its footing in this world, though, as a tumor near his hippocampus short-circuits his ability to make and process new short-term memories. This means he does not retain information about where he is and who he is with. Worse, “bad memories” (as he calls them) from his time on the force flood him regularly.
So here’s an offering for a day focused on remembering. Our brains, brilliant, complex, and amazing as they are, cannot heal themselves. Our memories, good, bad, and indifferent, can overwhelm or flee us. Everything exists as past or future, or maybe I should say nothing exists but the present. This moment, right now, the one we find ourselves in.
Make the most of it. Hang on to the person who loves you, the cat who comforts you, the dog who makes you laugh. Quiet your mind’s relentless searching for something else. If your now is lovely, cherish it. If it isn’t, change it. If you can’t change it, then find a cat to comfort you, a dog to make you laugh, or a human to say “I love you.”
That fellow whose brain is betraying him is married to my mother. Every once in a while he is able to emerge from the painful flashbacks, questions, and anxieties caused by memory loss and focus on the woman across from him to say “I love that gal. She takes care of me. I love her.” He says it almost as if he is as surprised as anyone to realize it. For that moment, their now is lovely. And it disappears all too quickly.
In honor of all the service, love, comfort, laughter, and loss in this life, make some lovely memories today.