Some weeks ago, I said to someone dear to me, "So you are 78 and I am 55. What have you learned in the last 23 years that I need to know?"
And he talked about three things, one of which is memory ~ the importance of its role in shaping our understanding as we grow older. The particular example he offered had to do with how his own understanding and appreciation of his mother has developed and changed as he has sifted through memories that reveal much more to him now than they did some years ago.
I have had occasion to think a great deal about memory in the past two weeks - in a confused and fractured kind of way. And then someone sent me the homily from our son's memorial service, which at the time I had had little ability to grasp. Here is the first paragraph:
"At the conclusion of the great Russian novel The Brothers Karamazov, a group of boys is standing at the graveside of one of their deceased companions, Ilyusha. Alyosha, the adult at the gathering says this: 'I want you to understand, then, that there is nothing nobler, stronger, healthier, and more helpful in life than a good remembrance…you often hear people speak about upbringing and education but I feel that a beautiful, holy memory preserved from early childhood can be the most important single thing in our development. And if a person succeeds, in the course of his life, in collecting many such memories, he will be saved for the rest of his life. And even if we have only one such memory, it is possible that it will be enough to save us.' "