The Joy of Remembering

“Does remembering you son cause you pain?”

That is a tough question to answer. Yes and No. Yes, to relive some of the moments of hurt is painful. To relive the moment the doctor told us that Joshua was not going to get better. To relive the moment his body was carried from our house to the funeral home. Those are painful memories. To walk through them in my mind is to generate tears in my eyes.

But also, No. To remember how Barbara rocked Joshua in the “big chair” and sang to him is to remember her love for him and his bright smile, looking into her eyes. To remember his loud laugh is to remember the joy he brought into our lives. To remember how we cared for him is to remember how God loves the weak. To remember such things also generates tears, but different kinds of tears, tears of joy.

So, I want to remember. Even the painful memories remind me of the authentic hurt that is part of this world. But, more importantly, to remember is to give value to Joshua’s life and remember how his life shaped me. To forget him would be to negate his value and existence. To remember him is to value him.

I am part of an ongoing small group of parents who have lost children. One of the things I hear often in that group is how they love to talk about their children, and how much it means for someone to ask about them. Too often people are afraid (and understandably so) to remember with us since they are fearful that we might be hurt by remembering.

But actually one of the greatest joys of a parent who has lost a child is from someone to remember their child. We need people to “remember with us,” share with us about our children, and walk with us. We love to remember our children, but we don’t want to burden you with our pain. We don’t want to hurt you, or perhaps worse bore you. And that is why we react so openly when you want to talk about our children. We love to remember–it renews their value in our lives.

When you meet someone who has lost a child, I know it can be awkward as to what to say or do or how to react. Let me offer a few suggestions. Ask, “What is your child’s name?” [Note: “is” not “was”. Our children still live!] To name a child is to give identity, reality and value. That you want to know their name says something about how you care. Ask a question about the child–it shows you are interested. Be willing to listen as we remember, and don’t change the subject. Share our joy, and perhaps also our pain.

Thanks for remembering with me. It may hurt a little to remember, but it would hurt more if no one remembered.

6 Responses to “The Joy of Remembering”

  1.   Dee O'Neil Andrews Says:

    I was 14 when my little brother, Mark Alan, 8, died of a cancerous brain tumor after 9 months of illness. We were always very close and his death affected me greatly. But, years later I wrote this poem about him and what I had learned from the gifts of his life.


    To see one die
    So full of life
    And love
    Is hard to bear.
    You want to share
    A few more days
    To praise the God
    Who made
    This one of love.
    But it is not to be
    And you must see
    Your way alone
    To find some hope
    Beyond the grave.
    It is not true
    That love must die.
    It does live
    The finite world
    Of rock and stone
    Blood and bone.
    Love lives on
    And can become
    The meaning
    Of the one
    Who’s gone
    In all who suffer
    If you will care
    And share
    Your love anew
    Through loving those –
    Your love’s set free
    To be the reality
    Of one who died –
    Yet lives.

    Dee Ann Andrews
    circa 1974

  2.   john alan turner Says:

    Perhaps along with weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice, we should remember with those who are remembering and forget with those who are forgetting.

  3.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    Well said…both of you, Dee and John.

  4.   Frank Bellizzi Says:

    Dear John Mark,

    With interest and sympathy and all of those heart-and-mind things, I’ve read just about all of “Professing Professor” to date. It’s so good to hear from you as a blogger.

    I’m looking forward to reading here in the future. And I know a lot of other people feel the same way. So keep teaching and encouraging us. We’ll be reading and thinking and thanking God for the way that your words bless us.

  5.   Anthony Parker Says:

    Your recent posts have been great reminders of the paradoxical nature of life, and how we have to embrace those paradoxes if we are to find joy. I’m doing what I can to promote your blog. It is one of the most worthwhile that I’ve come across. We all need a greater dose of your honesty and sensitivity. We’ve never met personally, but you remind me very much of another dear friend who has lost both a wife and a daughter, but who continues to embrace life and minster to others.

  6.   Daniel Says:

    I’ve not spoken with you very much about Joshua, but my heart is burdened and lifted as I read this blog.

    May His Spirit comfort us in blogging and in the silence of all our sufferings.

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