Huh? What do you mean? How can I misuse memories, since my memories are what they are?
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We all remember both happy and sad times, we remember those people who we have loved but are no longer with us, and there are even things we remember that we wish we could forget.
It is especially tough at this time of the year when the world (right or wrong) celebrates the traditional holidays. We remember times past and being with family and friends, but instead of feeling cheerful, so many people suffer from seasonal depression, and at this time of the year instead of joy and goodwill, we see depression and suicides rise at an alarming rate.
And why is that? This is supposed to be one of the happiest times of the year, yet suicides and depression are at their highest!
I believe part of the reason, if not the entire reason, is that people misuse their memories by making themselves sad over what isn’t anymore, instead of giving thanks for having been able to have those experiences.
Can you imagine how much someone who has been raised in a broken home, on welfare, with no hope and nothing but bad memories would give to have even one of your family get-together memories?
What would someone raised in a third world country who has dirt floors and lives hand-to-mouth every day be willing to do just to have your memory of a holiday dinner and opening presents?
Maybe as you are reading this you might be one of those who doesn’t have these happy memories; if so, please comment on this post to let those who have had them know what they would mean to you.
We are, by nature, self-absorbed and so when we lose a loved one, the first emotion we feel is sadness. Not for them- they are beyond pain or troubles- but for ourselves, because now we won’t have that person in our life anymore. And that’s not necessarily wrong; at least, not at first. But when their memory brings sadness to us instead of appreciation and joy that dishonors them because it creates a feeling within you that they wouldn’t want you to have.
Job set the example about how to handle disaster: when all that he owned, as well as all those whom he loved, were taken away in an instant, his first reaction was to thank God for being able to have had them in his life, at all. He said, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away: blessed be the name of the Lord!” (Job 1:21). Notice how his first acknowledgment was that the Lord gave- that is what we need to focus on.
When we remember those who we have lost or good times that aren’t happening anymore, we need to be thankful for them and not sad that they are gone. When you really think about it, being sad about good things is silly, isn’t it? We should reflect on all the joy that God has provided for us, and even though we are sad, to a degree, that we can’t have that anymore, the fact that we allow it to ruin our day or our attitude is actually doing that memory, and all those who are part of it, a disservice.
When I die, if anyone cares and misses me, I would not want them to be sad when they think of me; rather, I would want them to be joyful and feel good because if I was alive, that is what I would want to do for them. I want to do more than just make people feel good now, while I am alive- I want the memory of my relationship with them to make them happy when I am not there. The best thing I can think of is when someone is sad, they remember me and our relationship together, and that makes them feel better.
I can’t think of a more wonderful legacy than one where the memory of being with me makes someone feel better.
So, for those of you out there who become sad at this time of the year because you remember the good times that you used to have, which (for whatever reason) you can’t have anymore, please take this advice: STOP IT!
Get your head on straight, remember the good times with joy and appreciation because you were blessed by God to have them! Just because things are different now, do not dishonor those who are missing, whether still alive or dead, by allowing your selfish and greedy feelings (which we all have) to sadden you.
How much enjoyment you get from a holiday season, of (for that matter) from life, itself, is entirely up to you. So don’t misuse your memories but appreciate them, savor them like a fine wine, and honor those who are no longer with you by letting the memory of being with them make you happy.
Life goes on, and when it comes down to it, it is better to remember than to be remembered.
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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch haShem!