Sunday, July 21, 2013

Letting Sleeping Memories Lie

"All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again."
Ecclesiastes 3:20

God has enabled me to repress a lot of memories.
I jokingly tell Kevin that if they ever one day all come to the surface at the same time,
I will more than likely explode.  :~)

Videos are great things.
They capture the moment and store it someplace safe.

Going back to watch them opens the door to the past....
it is like being there again....
living the moment.

Sometimes that is a good thing.
Other times....well, maybe not.

I have a precious gift, given to me by Uncle John and Aunt Linda for my birthday a few years ago.
I have stored it safely away, 
glanced at its cover from time to time,
appreciated it from the depths of my heart,
but been completely terrified to actually watch it.

It is a video.
Taken throughout various visits....during happy times....
that we have spent together.

Last night, Kevin mentioned the video to Zach.

"Would you like to watch it, Zach?
Papaw Willard is on there playing his banjo...
and Nana...and Uncle John and everyone.
You could see how much you are like your Papaw Willard.
Do you want to watch it?"

Dad's old, worn, well-used, five-string banjo I cherish so much.
Sure wish I could play it and make it ring like he could.

Zach has never actually seen or met his Papaw,
because Dad died when I was 11 1/2 weeks along in my pregnancy.
He's seen Dad's banjo stored still and quiet in the closet,
seen me pick it up from time to time,
wishing I had the ability to play it,
then set it down again, frustrated because I just can't get it.

Zach was hesitant to watch the video, at first....because of me.

He knows me all too well.

Knows what an utter mess I can be,
and how I fall to pieces when I think of Mom and Dad and the past.
How the wounds are still gaping mile-wide-open, at times,
and how much it hurts to see me cry.

I've never been much of an actress.
What you see is what you get.
And even though I do my utmost to shield Zach from my emotions,
they get the best of my intentions more times than they don't.

So, I am what I am.
It is what it is.
I don't sweat it too much...because I have learned
that there are very few things I can change.

"Mama, what do you think?
Can you stand to watch it?"

I waited before answering.
Part of me wanted to see it very much.

Uncle John is very ill.
I have cried so hard wondering what his outcome will be.
I am not ready to lose him.
He is close to my heart.
There are only three of Mom's siblings left...
and I am very close to each one of them.
The thoughts of losing someone close to me again....
is utterly terrifying to me.

Because I know what grief is.
I have walked this path.
I don't want to hurt.
It feels too soon.

His condition is very serious.
But, our God is an awesome God.
He is bigger than any disease.
It really doesn't matter what name it has attached to it.
God's power trumps the strength of all others.
Only He knows the outcome.

"Yeah, I think I want to watch it."

"Are you sure?"
Both Kevin and Zach had the same reaction.
I call them my Aaron and Hur...
so precious to my heart and
so faithful to hold up my hands in life's battles.

"Yes.  If I can't take it, I'll leave the room
and let the two of you finish it."

In hindsight, I wonder if it was a huge mistake.
I wonder if I should have been content to let sleeping memories lie.

Because the feelings, emotions, and memories that welled up in me
had been long-buried and were safe....hidden deep.
Until I started watching that video, that is.
As soon as we hit the play button, there we were...all of us.
It was like I was sitting right person.
The outburst began...
like a dam breaking and the waters of the Pacific rushing forth....
over the broken-down wall.

The video started with one of our family get-togethers
in Uncle John and Aunt Linda's basement.
Singing together,
Dad on his banjo,
Uncle John on his electric guitar,
Uncle Paul on his mandolin,
Jack, Kevin, and me on acoustic guitars,
my cousin, Larry, who later played his bass,
Aunt Dorothy, Mom, Jack Worstel,
my brother, David, sister-in-law, Dorothy, niece, Vicki, Aunt Linda....

We were together.

On one scene of Dad, Uncle Paul, and Jack talking,.
I sat there thinking how all three of them are gone now....
just gone....
out into eternity...
out of our lives.
But never our hearts.

Uncle Paul was so funny.
In the midst of flowing tears, he made me laugh.
He always did.
No matter what was going on or how serious the occasion,
Uncle Paul could make me laugh.
So can Uncle Orville.
And Uncle Donnie.
And so could Dad.
They are some of the funniest men I've ever known.
Quick-witted as they can...or could be.

At one point, on the video,
I was in the middle of singing a very serious song....
one I wrote years ago, 
about a little girl they called "Rag Doll"
because she couldn't come out to play...she had no shoes, 
her clothes were shabby, and the other children made fun of her.
The air was the basement....
as everyone listened to the sadness of the words,
until Uncle Paul came down the stairs, 
grinning from ear-to-ear, dancing around, acting plumb silly.
I'm so glad Aunt Linda got it on video.
He reached the bottom of the stairs
and went over and tapped Mom's shoulder, 
scaring her half out of her wits...
right in the midst of the serious mood of the song.  

She didn't expect it at all.
It was downright hilarious.
So were other moments....on there.

The comic relief was welcome,
as I sat there watching, remembering, re-living, and bawling like a baby.

Laughter through tears is one of the strongest....and strangest emotions.

The scene changed to a visit Uncle John, Aunt Linda,
Uncle Orville, and Aunt Joyce paid Mom and Dad when we all lived in Florida.

Dad was so funny on there....saying the silliest things....
making us laugh.
I forgot how funny he really was.
It has been over 13 years....
since he made me laugh.

Wow, I miss him.
Miss them.
We were on there singing, "In Gethsemane Alone" together.
That was one of our favorites.
If I had a dollar for every time Mom, Dad, and I sang that song,
we would be rich.
I'd rather have the memories....rather have lived the moments....
than to have the money....

After it was over, I was downright depressed.
I mean, in a way, I am glad I saw it...
glad I relived it....
felt like I was right those precious memories.
In another way, I regret seeing it at all.

Because Mom, Dad, Uncle Paul, Aunt Dorothy, and Jack are all gone.
Seeing them was like an illusion.
I can't go call Mom.
Can't go out to eat with Dad.
Can't email Uncle Paul & Aunt Dorothy.
They wouldn't be there, if I went to Ohio to visit.
Jack wouldn't be there if we all got together for one of our hootenannies.

The other day, my cousin and precious friend, Julie, 
asked me a question.
"Do you ever think of moving back to Ohio, Cheryl?
You have so much family here."

I sat there and pondered her question,
then told her no....
that I didn't think we would probably ever do that.
Who knows the future, but I don't see it being in God's plans for us.
And I think it would hurt too be there...without so many from my past.
I do still have some family there.
But not near as much as I used to....
back when that video was made.

Many others have died...or moved away...
and things would never be the same.
It can't be be something it once was.
Because the people are what make it special.
And so many of the people...are gone.

Photo of Mom's beautiful funeral flowers taken by Angela Gellenbeck

Last year, when we went to Ohio for Mom's funeral and burial,
I thought I would fall completely apart.
So many places....we used to go when I was growing up.
So many scenes....kept flashing before my eyes.
The flooding of memories was almost smothering.
There were moments, surrounded by the people around me,
that I felt like I was literally going to explode...pass out...or something worse.
There was this tidal wave...rushing over me....flooding my spirit,
and I couldn't give in to it.
I had to keep fighting stay strong.

I couldn't fall I so needed to do.

I felt like screaming...and someplace alone, 
where I could just float....
on the dashing waves....
and let my emotions do what they needed to do.
Just let them follow their natural course....without restraint.

It was so hard being in the atmosphere of my childhood....
without Mom and Dad.
Knowing they are both gone...forever.
Never to make another memory...with me.
Never to sing another song....together.
Never to be there...for one another.

And now I face the uncertain future,
without their unconditional support and guiding love.

It would mean so much to me if each person reading this 
would take one moment to stop and pray for my Uncle John.

His future is uncertain....but, really isn't that the way with all of us?
None of us knows what will happen tomorrow
or what may be hiding beneath the surface...
inside any one of us.

Memories are tricky things.
After the video, 
I picked up the phone and called Aunt Joyce.

"You've got to see this", I told her through tears.

Thank God in Heaven, I can still call her.
I am so thankful she is in my life, and we are so close.
It is such a comfort to be able to be with her and Uncle Orville.
She has been through so much.
I didn't know if I would lose her.
I am beyond grateful God left her with us.
Could I have honestly endured a different outcome?
For her?

How blessed I am that Uncle Orville can still make me laugh!

Aunt Joyce said,
"We can't change the past, Cheryl.  We have to look to the future."

She's right.
Dwelling on it for too long is overwhelming.
It just isn't healthy.
Because what was will never be again.
But, there is life in front of this moment.
There are people who love us, who care, who would do anything in the world
to see us smile.

That is what we have to focus on.
I keep telling myself that.
Sometimes it sinks in...other times, not so much.

Have you ever wondered what exactly the Apostle Paul was referring to
when he wrote Philippians 4:13,14?
"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended:
but this one thing I do,
forgetting those things which are behind,
and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

We can all speculate and interpret his words.
None of us really know everything he wanted to forget.
I don't believe he was instructing us to forget the good things in our past,
to throw away the sweet recollections,
or toss aside the precious memories.

But, I believe Paul realized that as long as we hold on too tightly to the past,
we cannot completely live in this moment,
nor are we able to reach for the future...
towards the plans God has in store for us.

As long as we stay stuck in what has been and what might have been,
we will never lay hold on or apprehend the spiritual ground God has willed to us....
up ahead.

It is okay to remember the good times,
to recollect upon the good memories.
and to cherish moments of past happiness.

But, to linger there too long,
to dwell on the pain of loss,
to rue the changes that have taken place,
is really unwise.....and unhealthy.

How could Paul have ever been what God was calling him to be,
if he had continually thought upon his own past?

He had stood by as Stephen was stoned to death,
had imprisoned Christians and ordered them killed,
all in the name of doing God's service.
God had forgiven him....and forgotten it all.
But, Paul had to forgive himself....and forget it ever happened.
He had to let it go.
Had to make a conscious move forward.
Had to lay to rest the indelible vision bored into his mind of the pain and terror on Stephen's face.
Had to consciously forget the scenes of fathers he had pulled from their families,
so he could bind and imprison them for their Christian faith.
Had to bury memories of past sins, indiscretions, and failures.
Otherwise, they would pull him down to the point of impeding his spiritual progress....
and the future God had designed for his life.

There is not one thing any of us can do to change anything that has happened.
We cannot undo anything we've done.
We cannot go back and pluck up seeds we have sown.
We will never be able to bring back loved ones we have lost
or return to any previous point of life.

It is best to press forward.
To live the life that is in front of
Sometimes that means letting sleeping memories lie...undisturbed.
To remember the good times....from time to time,
as we are able to cope with the emotions they conjure,
but, to forget the bad.
Thinking of our past sins,
wrong choices we've made,
hurts we have inflicted on others,
times we've distanced ourselves from God....
really does nothing other than to bring us down.

When God forgives, He forgets.
He casts our sins as far as the east is from the west....
never to bring them up against us again.
God never throws our past up to us.
Even when we make the same mistakes....all over again.
When we come to Him and repent He absolutely forgives....and forgets every past offense.
Isn't that wonderful?
Shouldn't we always do the our relationships...with each other?

I love the quote,
"Yesterday's history.
Tomorrow's a mystery.
Today is a gift...
that's why it is called the present."

God wants us to live in the present.
Because it is all we have.
We are not promised another day.
We can't go back and relive days gone by.
We can't fix regrets....of any kind.

It is now, my friend.
Just now.
To live...and breathe...and cherish.
To do things differently.
To tell our loved ones how much they mean to us.
To be kind and lift the load of another.
To do the things for others we wish we had done for those who have passed on.

So, how about it?
Anyone you need to call?
Any apologies you need to make?
Any regrets you can prevent?

While it is now?
Because now will not last.
It will soon be past.
Then you won't be able to change anything about all.

Jesus knew His time on earth was short.
He made the most of every, single moment.
He said,
"I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day:
the night cometh, when no man can work."
John 9:4

Night is coming to all of us.
One day, we all will pass off the scene....
and all that will be left of us are memories...
that will live on in the hearts and minds of those we leave behind.

What kinds of memories will we leave?
I guess, that all depends on what we decide to do now.


  1. Ahh, Cheryl,
    I am blessed to read your post on memories, love, loss, and leaving a legacy with what we have left before we go to Jesus! Very encouraging and leaves me with deeper insight! So glad you got to stop by Deep Roots at Home! May you be blessed and strengthened in the Lord :)
    Blessings and a hug,

    1. Thank you so very much for stopping by, Jacqueline! I was so blessed by the encouragement you left behind. I so enjoy your site and trust God will bless you in every endeavor for Him. Please come back anytime! Blessings and hugs back to you, dear sister!

  2. Thank you for writing this, my dear sister in Christ. It is beautiful. I shared it with a couple of my friends that are struggling. This is what I wrote to one: "I still have some tears in my eyes after reading it, because I can relate in so many ways: loss of family, loss of health, loss of church families from having to move on for whatever reasons (still healing from that [with a husband in the ministry] ), and even loss of income. I have moved on in some ways, but I am still working on others."

    Love and prayers,

  3. Oh, my dear friend! My heart goes out to you in so many ways! The pains and heartaches of life are so overwhelming, at times, and if we didn't have Jesus, what would we do??? Thank you SO much for sharing this with others. My prayer is that it will be a blessing. Sometimes, it just means so much to know that we are not alone in our struggles. Thank you so much for your kind comment, love, and support. God bless you. Love, Cheryl

  4. Ah, yes, sweet memories and precious treasures and family stories - our lives are made of these.
    Thank you for sharing this, it brought many things from my own family and heritage to mind. My own mother, especially. I miss her.

    1. Bless your dear heart! I know how you feel....losing parents is truly some of life's deepest sorrow. I trust God will bless you and comfort you in your times of missing her. Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving kind words behind. God's peace be with you, Cheryl