'You are the sum total of your memories,' my dad often tells me. You are your memories.
You memories make you, you. If anything, this is one of the reasons why I believe in God, a Creator, a glorious Maker. God is a God of memories, of stories. He is the beginning and end of history. History is His Story.
Some of us thank God for memory, but for others it is a curse. They want to forget.
One of the scariest feelings I've ever felt was the during the time I went back to Malaysia for the first time after four years of living in a new city, Melbourne, and making a new life here. I went back to my old house, drove past my old kindergarten and primary school, visited the appallingly filthy markets filled with all kinds of sights and smells and flavours that I used to go to with my mom on her morning market trips. And when I old home, I felt this strange heart-wrenching sensation the moment I peeked into my old room. The room I had lived in, grew up in, threw my tantrums in, cried and prayed in, had nightmares in, practiced my violin in, cuddled my dog in, encountered God in, played with my sisters in - this room - that used to have my name on its door, was no longer mine. It didn't look like my room, it didn't smell like my room, it now belonged to another person. A stranger. Someone else had made it theirs now.
I hated how plain and undecorated it looked. But who was I to care? I don't live here anymore. I felt the pang of losing something. Forever. Ahh. I feel it now. It tugs at my heart strings, akin to regret, but perhaps a deeper feeling than that.
That experience of going back to a place that once was my home left an indelible mark in my heart and memory. I realized then, and thanked GOD breathlessly in a whisper, that at least I still had my memories with me. That is one thing nobody, no physical loss or distance can take away from me. All I have now are my memories of living in this place, this city, this neighborhood, all those years. Playing in the rooms with my sisters, practicing my piano, lying on the cool tiled floors on hot afternoons with my beautiful dog Lassie, running across (what appeared to be in my 7 year old mind) the great black abyss of the corridor to my parents room in the nights when I woke from a nightmare; my dad taking me & my sisters on our great adventures in the jungle behind our house, climbing the roof and attic to see our neighborhood, the fire that nearly destroyed my sisters' room, all the arguments and laughter and spankings and prayers in that house. Funtimes. Tough times. God moments. Now all I have are the memories.
If someone were to listen to these memories and challenge me, 'How do you know all that existed? It's no longer here.' I would have cried. There's no way to answer that. Maybe photos would prove it. But some people don't have photos. Some people have not been as fortunate as I. Some have had to flee their homes because of war or persecution. And their memories are all they have left now to testify of a life their once lived.
But silently I thanked God and found a little comfort in the fact that at least my sisters and parents would be able to validate my memories because they were there too. But then God reminds me also of the people who have lost loved ones, the only people in their lives who could testify to the same experiences. And I cry on the inside. How do they cope with such loss? The pain must be indescribable.
But coming back to the memories, I realize that my memories are another reason why everyday I choose again to believe in God. All the tough times, God was there. All the good times, I had him to thank. The gift of memory is too brilliant, to wondrous a gift to attribute to the cosmic coincidence of evolution. And that is truly my personal conviction.
You see, I never grew up with religion. My parents never advocated religion. They loved God and they had this unmistakable faith in Jesus. I grew up learning that it wasn't just about being a good person, about religiosity, about rules and regulations. It was about grace and truth. And above all love. God's love. Unconditional. Out of this world. You see, I learnt that religions KILLS, but Jesus SAVES.
So there it is. I cling on to my memories. And each new day as I choose again to trust and obey, often falling, ever failing, yet always standing firm in faith, I am putting another footprint in the sand, making new memories and leaving old ones. All in all, I see the footprints of Jesus before me, and always also beside me. Whether life walks me through good or bad, I will always learn to give for the glorious gift of memories. For from them I learn, in retrospect and introspect, what it means to live in the moment.
~ j a n i e ll e