Memories, painful, therapeutic or both?

War memorial on Cumbrae

Memory is such a powerful but mysterious part of our minds and our souls. We all remember in different ways, sometimes we are good at remembering numbers, or names, or faces. Sometimes our memories are coloured by subsequent happenings, and so are hard to work out. Memories can be strong or fuzzy, or different for different types of experiences. So much is inexplicable.

This season of Remembrance is vitally important. The principle of remembering those who gave their lives in the service of their country, along with those who returned, and thinking of their families is part of being a compassionate society. When people have sacrificed so much for the sake of others, they should be honoured and remembered.

The nature of the remembering is more tricky. Everyone has their own individual experiences and perceptions, so the overall experience can be varied. It can be hard to have balance- one veteran remembers with great thanksgiving the life of a fallen comrade, whilst another is lost in the traumatic memory of a grenade exploding. Remembering is poignant.

Sometimes we want to try and forget, to repress difficult memories, but then the danger is that they bubble back to the surface after doing much damage. So we need to remember, even tough recollections, so we can process them, and become more healthy. There are many therapeutic ways of doing this, if you find the right person to be supportive. All too many veterans come back with ptsd, and need specialised support and don’t always have access to this, causing damage to self and to others.

I think of Jesus at the last supper, saying about eating the bread, and drinking the wine ‘ do this in memory of me’. He wanted his friends to know that he was willing to lay down his life out of love, snd to keep this love central in the life of the community, by continuing to celebrate this sacrament. Remembering had a sad dimension, but also had an aspect of hope.

This Remembrance Sunday, I pray that no one is struggling with dark and traumatic memories of conflict and war alone. I pray that everyone would have a safe person to be supportive, and when relevant, to signpost them to effective help. In a day of powerful emotions, may there even yet, be a sense of love, and the possibility of hope.

Creator God, You created human beings to be so amazing, and to be so beautiful, yet we can also be so conflicted and damaged. Lord Jesus, thankyou that You suffered on the cross, and that You understand our struggles and traumatic and painful memories. May the light and love of Christ dissipate the power of experiences of darkness and violence. Bring healing to all who suffer the vicissitudes of war, so that each one can find peace and meaning. May your holy spirit heal our memories, so we are free to breathe and live once more, in Jesus name, Amen.