Memory: something that is remembered.

Remember: to have or keep an image or idea in mind; to think of something or someone from the past.

I am tempted to quote Edmund Burke, an 18th Century philosopher and political theorist, who wrote, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” I am tempted to write about memories which American voters should have held in their hearts and minds when they went to the polls this year.

However, like many others, I need to take a break from the toxicity of this election year. I need to sip long and deep from other memories, memories which will bring me a modicum of peace and give me hope.

And so, instead, I will quote Rosamund Pilcher. In her heartbreakingly beautiful novel, The Shell Seekers, first published in 1997, she wrote about a woman in her early 60s who was recovering from a heart attack and coming to terms with her life. At one point, Penelope recalled a letter from a man she loved deeply, a man who had been killed on D-Day. He had written to her, “It was good, and nothing good is truly lost. It stays part of a person, becomes part of their character. So part of you goes everywhere with me. And part of me is yours, forever.”

Who are the people who have become part of my character, who go everywhere with me? Obviously, I won’t be able to list everyone, because God has been good and blessed me with a wonderful array of friends. I’m also, not going to make note of family members, because their place in my heart is a given. But, I will name two wonderful women and share briefly the goodness they have brought into my life.

  • Merry Lou Sunshine Christmas Burgess: She’s married now, and I’m pretty sure she’s dropped the “Sunshine.” (I think I was the only one who referred to her in that way, anyway.) But in my heart she is still “Burgess” and I suspect I’m still “Gales” to her. I met Burgess at a time in my life when I was painfully alone. Mom had died a year earlier; Dad had told me there was nothing for me at home – and he literally meant “nothing,” not a place, not emotional support, NOTHING. My best friend from high school had “outgrown” me, and I didn’t have anyone else to whom I could turn. Suddenly, there was Burgess, with her smile and her welcome invitations, and her patience with all of my dysfunctional interpersonal behaviors, consistently extending the hand of friendship. More than 40 years have passed since the January day when I met her. I can’t say I think of her every day, but I doubt if a week goes by when I don’t think of her and give thanks for what she gave me, a safe harbor in which to begin healing, thoughtful conversation and laughter.
  • Karen Kinder: Karen and I met at a juried art show in June 1990. We were both moms with young children, and both delighted to discover our pieces had been well received. Karen’s painting placed second and mine won an honorable mention. She was returning to art after a hiatus during which she had started her teaching career and a family. I had been painting for years, but it had been a clandestine activity for reasons too numerous to record here. The recognition was good for both of us, but the friendship which grew in subsequent years has been the greater gift for me. Supportive, understanding, nonjudgmental – Karen has been the receptacle of so many of the stories of my life, and in doing so, has given my heart a home. In addition, she has continued to inspire me to be an artist by succeeding in her own art career. So much from one chance encounter!

To these wonderful women, thank you for becoming part of my character. To all the friends I did not name, you are valued, too, and have also helped me to become me. Even though you are not named, you are cherished.


2 thoughts on “Memories

  1. During my freshman year at SDSU, our Resident Advisor put quotes on everyone’s door. I can’t remeber what was on my door, but I do remember one piece of advice: “choose your friends wisely, because you become what they are.” At the time, it seemed like boring advice. What new student wants to make friends who study? There’s beer to drink! But as the year went on, that advice became more prophetic.

    I started making friends who, on the surface, were as different as me as possible. I chose to focus on our commonality, and I found real meaningful friendships. Lifelong friends. Friends I go months without talking to and know their voice at “hello”.

    As I get older, I find myself wanting to become what my friends are. I seek people who outdo me. I surround myself with people who are passionate about their skills. I want to be the least intelligent, least read, least kind, least compassionate, least open minded person at coffee. But not as a reflection of myself: as a reflection of those around me. My friends set the bar. I will never reach their level, but I can follow their example.

    To all my friends, I’d like to say this:

    I’m sorry for my shortcomings. I’m trying, and I’m learning everyday. Thank you for changing me into a better version of myself. Thank you for your inspiration and your patience.

    Liked by 1 person

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