Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Gift of Fading Memory

There are occasions in our lives, when our emotions are so powerful, our pain so strong or our work so difficult, that we are certain we will remember it forever. Every detail is etched on our minds and hearts, and we know we could never forget.

We do remember for a while. And then the memory fades, allowing us to put the experience behind us - perhaps to even grow from it - and move on with our lives.

It's a blessing, really.

During one such time in my life, we were asked to temporarily host a ten year old boy with some serious issues. He stayed with us for three weeks before he had to be placed in the psychiatric ward of the hospital.

I don't remember a lot about those weeks. I don't think I want to. But I do remember that it was more physically and emotionally draining than I ever imagined it could be, and that it took a tremendous toll on everyone in the family and turned our lives upside-down.

I remember how I felt so sad that he ended up in the hospital despite all our efforts to keep him out; and at the same time, so relieved to have my life back.

And after it was all over, I remember telling a friend how this was the most difficult three weeks of my life.

Looking back, I don't know that it was. I've had other challenges that were at least as difficult, if not more so. But time passed. I forgot...and I healed. And those other things didn't seem so hard anymore.

With time, the same thing happened with this. I thought I'd never undertake anything like this ever again. But when I was recently asked to have a boy in my son's class stay with us for a few days, I agreed. The memories of that ordeal have faded, the hardships have dimmed. I can hardly remember why I found it so excruciating.

Meanwhile, those few days are stretching into weeks, and he's still with us.

It's a funny thing, the mind. 

The heart, too.

There are times I've been so hurt...in so much pain...I didn't know if I could ever heal.

But time passed. The hurt faded. And sometimes, when I look back, I almost can't remember what it was that hurt so intensely. Almost.

When that happens, I am finally able to judge favorably; to try to see things from another point of view. Maybe even forgive.

It's a blessing.


  1. Memory is fascinating! We also are able to change and adapt our memories. I'm studying Neuroscience so we did a whole class on just how memories are changed. It is incredible.

    It IS a bracha. It is a bracha that we are able to look back, without all the emotions that accompany those difficult moments. It is also a bracha that we are able to forget. But hopefully, we learned about experience, not just forgot it.

    1. Absolutely. I think the bracha is that we are able to look back without feeling the hurt. But I don't know if we ever completely forget. I think the scar will always be there. We may not be able to remember what caused that scar, but the experience changes us.

    2. That is because they are meant to change us. One of my brothers always says how a mistake is not a mistake if you learned from it, then it becomes an experience. We are who we are because of everything that we have lived...the good and the bad.

  2. You know what's a blessing?

    Your existence! :-)

    1. That is so, so sweet.

      I needed to hear that now. Thank you.

  3. “Some old wounds never truly heal, and bleed again at the slightest word.”
    ― George R.R. Martin

    Saw this quote and wondered what you think.

  4. I think that might be true. I wish it wasn't. Maybe those wounds take longer to heal? I don't know...

  5. I agree with SIR's comment. Anyone who has you in their life is lucky. :) You are a blessing!

    Lucky you. I don’t know that my memory works that way. At least it’s hard to think it does while I’m in it. I can think back to certain times in my life that were difficult, they had to have been really hard on my emotions…but those memories have faded. I can remember some of the details but the emotions are gone…it doesn’t hurt anymore.

    But then there are other things that don’t seem to go away completely. There will be days that I’m fine but then something small could bring the emotions back all over again. Wasn’t there supposed to be some blessing that we forget the loss of those who died…to a certain extent? Well…I didn’t forget my brother. The pain comes back from time to time…and it can be something so little that could trigger my emotions. But it doesn’t hurt me every day like it used to in the beginning.

    (Don’t even talk to me about those who are alive. :) )

    I agree with Chaia’s quote. It’s a true one.

    1. Gosh...thank you so much, Devorah.

      I'm not any luckier than you are. We're saying the same thing. At the time, it hurts a lot. It's only after the memories fade that we can look back without feeling that pain.

      I always wondered about that blessing - forgetting the loss of those who died. It's almost comforting, in a way...knowing we won't be forgotten when we are gone.

    2. We actually spoke about memory today in one of my neuroscience classes, I wrote a post on something that we discussed: http://princessofhashem.blogspot.com/2012/11/what-if-you-could-erase-memory.html

  6. You write so well!