For this girl, a not-particularly-good-at-history, middle class, sheltered child, Memorial Day meant the pool was opening! Not very deep, but I’d actually love it if my kid had the same summers I had. Depart at morning, ride bikes to the pool, come home for lunch and disappear back into the neighborhood until Mom blew her fierce, two-fingered whistle around dinner time. Those memories are great and I remember them well.
Unlike my fun memories, I’d guess plenty of people have times from their childhoods where the memories are more of a haunting kind they’d like to forget. How beautiful when they choose to remember the pain. Not in some sadistic way of reliving it, but using it to develop the conviction and the character to never repeat ugly patterns? What a testimony for others who have been through something similar and come out well. Conversely, if we try to forget, maybe numb the pain, or pretend it didn’t exist, can’t that have the reverse effect? It seems somehow that the memory morphs into internal negative feelings which will be passed on from generation to generation. Carl Jung says, “There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but my making the darkness conscious.” In terms of memory, “facing the Soul,” must mean finding out what effect the pain had, and facing those realities.
Anthony de Mello, deceased Jesuit Priest, makes the point perfectly clear with this story, “This reminds me of this fellow in London after the war. He’s sitting with a parcel wrapped in brown paper in his lap; it’s a big, heavy object. The bus conductor comes up to him and says, ‘What do you have on your lap there?’ And the man says, “This is an unexploded bomb. We dug it out of the garden and I’m taking it to the police station.”
The conductor says, ‘You don’t want to carry that on your lap! Put it under the seat!’
Psychology and spirituality (as we generally understand it) transfer the bomb from your lap to under your seat. They don’t really solve your problems. They exchange your problems for other problems. Has that ever struck you? You had a problem, now you exchange it for another one. It’s always going to be that way until we solve the problem called ‘you.'”
— Anthony de Mello
I do know that Memorial Day is a national holiday to remember and honor those who have lost their lives in past wars. I think of the photo of my Grandfather in his WWII uniform. And the terrifying stories of my uncle’s close call with a landmine in Vietnam. The photos I saw of his many months in traction when he was such a young man are burned in my memory. I can’t imagine what Gold Star families suffer. War is such a good example of how much we must remember the pain. Socially and individually we must be taught by it. To endeavor not to cause it in the lives of others by all possible means.
“Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.” (Song of Solomon 8:6)