It’s funny what sticks in the mind. And what doesn’t. I learnt as a nine-year old that it takes twenty-seven days, seven hours, forty three minutes and eleven point five seconds for the moon to rotate around its own axis. I can still remember that. But I can’t remember people’s names from one day to the next. Sometimes even the names of people I’ve known for a long time!
This is the time of year for remembering. I guess it’s partly something about the season. The leaves are falling, the nights are drawing in. There’s a sense of things coming to an end, and perhaps we start to feel a little melancholy. The summer is over, but it’s too soon (yes, really it is) to start looking forward to Christmas. We’re reminded that our existence is fragile and that life is short. So maybe we dwell more than usual on the years that have already come and gone, and we find ourselves remembering.
Some memories are happy ones. We’re glad to recall them – though maybe sometimes we want to hold on to them too much.
But what if our memories aren’t so happy and we want to be rid of them? What if they keep coming back, as flashbacks and nightmares? Sometimes people who’ve been caught up in violence find it hard to handle their memories, and may need help to discover a way to live at peace with them.
And for most of us there are memories we’d rather not bring to mind too often. Disappointments, embarrassments, failures, outburst of anger. Sad days, nights lying awake, helplessly worrying. But the hard times can be the most positively formative and creative times of our lives. They can be the times when we learn more about ourselves, about other people, even about God. And, like the falling leaves, they can provide a sort of compost of the soul, a rich soil for new growth.
I came across this short prayer recently. It’s a prayer for Saturdays, the last day of the week. But it also suits this time of year.
we pray for those confused by change,
for those whose memories are fading,
and for all who are afraid of the future.
As you call us to newness of life,
help us both to cherish the past
and to reach out towards tomorrow.