Once again, without fanfare or preamble, here is tonight’s posting from March 2016.
The Next Forty Days, Day 39–In Memory of Me
By the time a person reaches a certain age, they have likely lost someone to death. They often go through a period during which time they engage in some ritual, wear an article of clothing, read and recite a poem, listen to a song, all of which serves to remind them of the person they lost. They commemorate in some way the life of that person. For many years, I wore a necklace that was my mother’s. The feeling of that enameled metal dove against my skin gave me great comfort, and reminded me that the spirit of my mother, in the form of the Holy Spirit, was with me. My sister still wears my father’s wedding ring. Others in my family commemorate and celebrate my mother’s and father’s lives in various ways. In short, we do things in memory of those we’ve lost.
In the Christian tradition, particularly in the Catholic tradition in which I was raised, Maundy Thursday, is a commemoration of the “Last Supper,” the last time Jesus broke bread with his disciples. During that evening, 2000-plus years ago, a number of significant things happened, the elements of which we still acknowledge and celebrate to this day. We learn about humility and offering service to one another from watching Jesus taking the time to wash the feet of his disciples. We learn that if such an action was not beneath Jesus, it was not any of his disciples, and it is certainly not beneath us to serve others, even those considered “the least of us” in our society. While service is a subject worthy of consideration in these last few explorations of the 40 days of Lent, that is not the focus of today’s reflection.
Among other rituals that have emerged from the last supper, one of the most important of these is the breaking and sharing of bread and the pouring and sharing of wine. In doing this, Jesus is creating a ritual that will be refined and passed down through the ages. And as he is teaching his disciples one last time, he shares the significance of the bread and wine, symbolic representations of the sacrifice he would shortly be making. He concludes this portion of the evening with the words, “Do this in memory of me.” So they did, and so we do, all over the world as we have through centuries and millennia.
When you think about your life right now, what are the things you will ask that others do in your memory? In much of our society we do not like to think about our own mortality, particularly if we consider ourselves relatively young. But what are those things you hope someone will do in memory of you, that when that thing is done, your friend, loved one, or colleague will say, “I want to offer this in memory of…” For those who feel that thinking of something as being “in memoriam,” particularly if you’re still alive is a bit morbid, you might think of it as, “in my honor.” Even as I write that, it sounds a bit arrogant to say to someone, “Do this in my honor,” but it is meant more as a sincere expression of “please remember me,” that I want to feel like I passed this way and left a mark.
This is an inherently human trait–the desire first to be known, and then later to be remembered, to be favorably thought of, even after we’re gone. We want to matter, we want to be loved, we want to be remembered. This is difficult for some of us to admit; we’d much rather do the remembering, the honoring. I recognize in this my own human need to be seen and acknowledged, and this feels very basic and primal. I cannot say how I want to be remembered, I can only say that I want to be remembered.
As I near the end of these 40 days, I am grateful for the journey of these explorations, for the insights I’ve gained that deepen my understanding of the world, clarify my faith, and expand the compassion and love I hold for the people around me. These words will fade into cyberspace and be forgotten, but in this moment, and for a brief time afterward they and I will have left a mark. And so it goes.