Remembrance is a laden word with heavy meaning, carrying such weight in our hearts and minds. Because it signifies memories or recollections, the feelings it elicits can be both painful and pleasing. Typically, remembrance occurs in honor of a loved one or a person of significance after they have passed. Many countries hold Remembrance Day to recognize fallen soldiers for their courage and sacrifice in defending their homeland. Whether observed ceremonially or more privately in thoughts, remembrance allows people to pay their respects. Though sadness often accompanies memories, remembering provides solace by keeping our dear ones with us forever in our hearts and minds. Sharing memories with others is an essential source of strength and unites us in grief.
When I write of remembrance, I instinctively think of my beloved sister, who died tragically in a car accident in her mid-thirties. Commemoration of the anniversary of her death started as a day shrouded in grief and mourning as the gaping wound in my heart remained fresh and raw. But with the passage of time and healing, I stopped focusing solely on the loss. Instead, I began to draw comfort from the abundance of happy memories I was fortunate enough to have had with my sister. And on her birthday, I make a point to celebrate her beautiful spirit and everything she loved, right down to her favorite chocolate cake!
Whereas previously I’d thought only of my sorrow at her absence in my life and that of my children’s, I remembered that she remained a part of my sons and me and that I could still draw strength from everything she’d given me, including her unfailing confidence in me. None of that died with her. I’d been so focused on my boys not having the benefit of their aunt in their lives that I’d neglected to consider that I could fill theirs with the same joy and exuberance she’d brought to mine. Now, I’ve reached a point where I reflect peacefully on our time together and trust in the immortality of her main legacy, unconditional love.
Of course, remembrance doesn’t always pertain to death. Sometimes, it’s simply reminiscing about a past event or a powerful impression left on our minds. My fond recollections of my children’s milestones or my former travel adventures also constitute remembrance. And as we age, the tendency to balk at change and reminisce about “the good old days” (for me, that’s the 80s and 90s!) rises exponentially.
Naturally, not all remembrances are agreeable. When we recall an unpleasant experience, it’s easy to succumb to the negative emotions it draws forth, especially when it forces us to relive the trauma. Yet even the distressing events have a purpose, providing an opportunity to grow and learn from them. Remembrance of past atrocities, such as slavery and genocide, serves as a warning so that future generations avoid repeating the same mistakes. Historical reminders in those instances can prompt healing and forgiveness.
Understanding the past also helps us to discover our purpose and reach our full potential. Ultimately, the power of remembrance lies in giving the past its due by recognizing its continuing impact, while remaining tethered in the present.
Illustration by JASMEE MUDGAL