Memories Never Sleep
Written by George A. Goens.
An Innocent Moment
I saw this little girl from afar standing
in front of the post office with her father,
and I was taken back to
another time so many years ago.
A time when life’s ebb and flow
circled around our family routines
immune to the coarseness of life
and the spectrum of loss.
The innocence of the girl’s image,
open to the present moment just
standing in quiet spirit with her dad, and
the unknown fate of her life.
You leapt from that glance
to my heart filled with memories
of times past, when that same
peaceful innocence embraced us too.
I know now that the cold
winds of life can create a shiver in
our hearts as the unexpected face
of mortality breaches the innocence of life.
Memories never sleep. They dwell in perpetual insomnia. Small things spark them into action. Hearing a particular tune, seeing a Christmas ornament, driving behind a Toyota SUV, or kids carrying figure skates create a burst of emotion and feeling for me. Even the sounds of cold steel on ice brings back a flood of memories of Betsy skating and our drives home together after a two-hour lesson.
One little nudge and the resurrection of feelings and emotions jump to life. Like a hologram of the past, you can see and feel the times but can’t touch them because they reside in the twilight zone of our memory.
George and daughter, Betsy.
Memories highlight joyful and light moments that, in many cases, were unplanned, unscripted, and unforeseen -- significant because of the closeness and synergy they created. But some memories have a denser texture because they were born in those uncomfortable moments when misunderstandings or behavior shakes faith and trust. We all experience both. We can only recognize, appreciate and learn from them. They are what they are and cannot be erased.
Deeply sad and tragic moments live actively in my mind and consciousness – the most unfathomable -- the death of my daughter, Betsy, giving birth to my grandson, Luke. Memories of sad times can shatter our rational facade with emotion and panic -- smothering our sense of peace and serenity and shading our lives with melancholy.
I recollect the smallest details, the exact time things unraveled, and the physical feeling of those times -- the shortness of breath, pressure on my chest, and mind blurring confusion. The moment when my son, Curtis, called, “Betsy’s in trouble and might not make it” still haunts me.
Sight produces powerful images. I remember looking at Betsy’s lifeless, empty and flaccid body, lacking her spirit that so filled her presence. Her hair spread out over the pillow so uncharacteristically. She didn’t look like herself. Her indefatigable and distinctive spirit was missing. Maybe that is all our bodies are -- rented shells inhabited by our spirit on a short-term lease.
The haunting moment standing in the darkened stairwell when my son-in-law Bill told Claire that her mother died creates a sense of helplessness that still tightens my chest. Even as I write this, the emotion of that moment resurfaces. Hearing her soft whimper was heart crushing: I felt so terribly helpless being unable to protect my granddaughter from death’s hurt and pain.
Sometimes I wish those memories would sleep. But ironically, my love for Betsy, Claire, and Luke keeps them awake. These memories have impact because they are tied to a broken heart.
In reality I wouldn’t want to suffer amnesia from these memories of Betsy. My memory harkens back to how much we had that maybe we were not wise enough to appreciate at the time. Memories … Thank God for memories.
More on the Author, George A. Goens:
George A. Goens is the father of two children, Betsy and Curtis. Betsy died eight years ago giving birth to his first grandson, Luke. His granddaughter, Claire, was four years old at the time. He is completing a memoir, “The Promise of Living” about the collision of birth and death almost simultaneously and the journey to healing and peace. A play is also underway. “Letters on the Promise of Living” was recently published. He lives in Litchfield, Connecticut. www.georgegoens.com
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