Monday, May 14, 2012

Remembering Memories

You’ll find that the “narrative” about my experience over the past year is everything but linear. Part of that is intentional… make the blog more interesting and to keep you coming back to read more. The other part is purely a product of self-preservation….one over which I have very little control. The truth is that I still don’t remember a lot of what happened during those few months last summer. Memories come back slowly and carefully as I am ready for them. But I honestly don’t think I could sit down and tell you the whole story from start to finish even now. A lot of it is still buried in my memory.

My first exposure to this inability to remember memories happened pretty early and it made me aware very clearly what was happening and why it was happening. Two months after Brennis got home we were cleaning the house. We were slowly getting our life back to normal and putting all of the furniture back to where it belonged (we no longer needed a bed in the living room, for instance) and Brennis was able to do a lot of things now that he wasn’t able to do even a week before. While he was busy in the den I was straightening up the kitchen and happened on a stack of papers. I turned them over and realized that it was the folder that the hospital gave Brennis when he was discharged. It was the “So You’re Going Home With A Hole In Your Chest” brochure, outlining what to expect, what to be cautious of, etc., etc., etc.

When I saw that folder, it literally knocked me off my feet. I sat on a chair at the kitchen table and cried like I had not cried in years. It was as though I had forgotten what had happened to Brennis….to both of us…..and this brochure brought it all back into focus. I can’t really explain it any other way. My brain had allowed me to “forget” the whole experience temporarily so I could slowly get back to my “real” life. It’s the ultimate deinal and my brain was willing to allow it to happen so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed and I was grateful.

Even now, almost a year later, I occasionally have random memories sneak back into my brain and I am able to process them slowly into my recollection of the entire experience. With the year anniversary coming up shortly I think they are coming faster than normal these days. The other day I got a rash on my wrist and I remembered that I had the same rash on my wrist last year when Brennis was in the hospital but I kept hiding it from the nurses, afraid that they would ask me to leave his hospital room. It’s obviously something that blooms in May or June that I’m allergic to but I had totally forgotten about this little detail until just this week.

Part of this process of remembering memories is wonderful. Some of these memories are just too horrible or hurtful or sad to have in your memory every day. It would be overwhelming. But the somewhat random return of these memories can be like punches to the gut if you aren’t ready for them (and you almost never are).

It makes me wonder sometimes why we make ourselves remember bad things about our past at all. All of us make mistakes. All of us have done things we are ashamed of, are embarrassed by or that we regret. We have all hurt people we love and made bad decisions. We learn our lessons and move on….hopefully learning enough not to make the same mistake again. Sometimes we are successful and sometimes we aren’t. Many of us, however, are so entrenched in the failures of our past that we are unable to move forward.

I could very well dwell on these memories as they come back into my consciousness but I have chosen not to. I allow them to come to me and I let them be. Sometimes I cry and sometimes I just stop what I’m doing and consider the memory as it enters. There is, however, no need to dwell on it. It is a part of my history that I have back and it is something that I choose to keep but it is also my choice whether or not I am going to let it define me.

I posted a line of Facebook a few days after Brennis was released from the hospital: “I don’t think it’s true that God doesn’t give you more than you can handle….he just doesn’t let you know you can’t handle it until it’s over”. I am certainly in no position to hazard a guess about what role God played in what happened last year…but I do know that I made it through to this point and really that’s all I need to know.

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