To remember something is to put words and actions to the thought “this was important; this mattered; this changed things, for better or worse.” Remembering can honor, but can also rehash. Remembering can heal and can re-open the wound.
I don’t think that there’s a formula in remembering that will make it a healing thing rather than a hurting thing. It may be more about the state of one’s heart, or the freshness of the event. It may be about the individual’s experience. It may just be what happens that day.
Today I remember having lunch with a minister colleague, trying to make sense of horrific images on the news. I remember I was between pastoral calls, and making a plan about where I would go to church the next Sunday. I remember reaching out to my loved ones, to make sure they were ok, as if any of us could be ok after those planes crashed into those buildings.
But most of the time, I don’t think about September 11, 2001. Most of the time I go about my life, and occasionally say prayers for first responders, and occasionally grieve with those who grieve. A friend of mine works at the 9-11 museum in New York. Because of her work (and, I would say, her calling) she remembers every single day.
The premise of the novel The Giver is that after a cataclysmic, unnamed event, a society endows one person to hold the communal memory. Only one person remembers the sorrows and horrors and joys of that people. It’s a dystopian world, as you might expect. But I remember that day and we remember that day. For some that is healing, a testament to an ideal of American fortitude and resourcefulness. For some, that memory is excruciating, and gives birth to reawakened fears and to sorrows that will never end.
I won’t bake cookies for the local fire station today, although if you do, that’s a kind thing. I also won’t watch the news, because I never watch the news and because I don’t find a recitation of bad things good for my soul. But I will be intentional about some things today. I will work to be kind and gentle. I will not make great pronouncements about things I know nothing about. I will say prayers. That’s how I will remember today.
“That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.” Ecclesiastes 3:15