Why remember those who have died, when sometimes that can be painful more than joyful? Wouldn’t it be better simply to forget? A few years ago there was a movie called “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” which was sort of about why it is good to remember what you have lost, even if remembering is painful.
In the movie, people could have a medical procedure that wipes out their memories of someone they had loved and lost. It is about two people, a man and a woman, who fall in love, but it doesn’t work out – and they both decide to have this procedure to forget the time they had together.
But then during the procedure, the man remembers all that they had shared – not just the sad times when they fought and grew apart, but also the good times, happy memories that have been a part of him. He remembers them chasing one another around a frozen river. He realizes that all the good memories have to go with the bad ones. He ends up struggling with this as the procedure slowly drains them away. He tries to hide from the procedure in his mind, to protect part of his memory so he can hold onto what was an important part of his life.
I think this is why it is important to remember, even if it hurts. Whatever their faults or how painful the parting, people we loved who have died remain a part of us. There may be at least some good memories of them, and even if not how could we bear the pain of losing part of what makes us who we are? Wouldn’t we want people to remember us, despite our own faults? Remembering the dead is one way of living our Unitarian Universalist principle honoring the worth and dignity of every human being.
So I would like to invite you to remember joyfully those you loved who have died. Focus on the happy memories and what you learned from those people. Let me tell you about one person who shaped my life, - my grandmother, Evelyn Hamer Lahr. My Grandma Lahr was really fun. She was a flapper during the Roaring 20s, as a young and very pretty girl. She even played on a girls’ basketball team. She loved to laugh, joke, and tease. She taught my brothers and me all kinds of trick that drove my mom crazy, like how to burp. We'd come home and say, "Guess what Grandma taught us?" and my mom (who was pretty straight-laced) would visibly brace herself.
In the summer I would take my "banana bike" to Grandma's house in town. I would stay with her for a week, riding to the swimming pool while she took her afternoon nap. I would play with my friends, and ride back when the pool closed. This was a treat for a farm girl, believe me – being able to see my friends during the summer.
Each night we would watch TV together. She let me eat in her living room, which was not allowed at home – and we would have ice cream. My favorite was strawberry, so would give me that and I would dish her up some rainbow sherbet. I remember watching a Jerry Lewis movie with her, and her gravelly laugh.
She died when I was eleven. I still have the flannel nightgown that I used to wear when I stayed with her and forgot my own. It still smells like her. Marigolds remind me of her, because she always planted them around her vegetable garden. She brought me laughter and love, and taught me how to have fun. I love you, Grandma.