Memories, Memories

Birthdays make me reflective and as I get older the more reflection I seem to need. I just had my birthday and I have been contemplating memories of the last 72 years.  I find it hard to believe that I’m in my 70th decade and it is even harder to believe I survived all those years. 

Have you noticed memories are kind of weird? We never really remember them as they were but as we want them to be. I also don’t remember them in order and one memory seems to trigger another that may have happened years before or years after.  But, the act of remembering is a re-membering of me.  It is a process to remind me from where I came and how each memory created me.  It is a little like a yearly ‘Examen.’ It isn’t just remembering but an accounting of my life.  It is an opportunity to remember the good times and the bad, to forgive others, and to be forgiven, and to offer myself forgiveness.

I find God’s grace in memories, grace I hadn’t noticed when I was living them. I sometimes discover angels who have been my guides or protectors that I didn’t recognize when they entered and left my life. Each grace and angel helped form me into the person I have become. Unfortunately, I have also recognized a few individuals who lead me from my path, and I had to struggle to return, often with the help of one of those angels. It is one of God’s enduring graces that angels come when we need them and it’s usually when we have gotten everything all wrong.

I have been rescued so many times that my guardian angel carries an extra-large emergency kit.  I am sure she is grateful I haven’t needed to be rescued for a while. I started very early with getting my self into trouble. I was 6 when I pulled a deep-fat fryer down on top of me, resulting in 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 75% of my body. My memory of the incident is I wasn’t alone, I was being told I would be alright, and I was.  An angel in the shape of a plastic surgeon came and volunteered to perform all the skin grafts, paying for the hospital himself, and not charging my parents.  Without the skill of Dr. Meany, I would have been severely crippled. I would have been unable to live a normal life. My gratitude for the Doctors and nurses who worked so hard to save and heal me has no bounds.  To give back the gift given to me I have tried to be present to those who have been burnt, giving them comfort, and sitting and listening to their fears.

Passing on the gifts of grace has become part of who I am. I have been on the verge of homelessness a couple of times in my life and each time one of those angels was sent in to help. To pass on that gift I have helped others who have been on that edge, never expecting I will be repaid but always expecting that they will pass on their gift of grace.  If everyone did that no one would ever be homeless.

Those are nice memories, but I also have memories I am not proud of.  In my early 20’s I worked with a woman who could be abrasive and, quite honestly, we didn’t just not get along, we disliked each other intensely. I am ashamed to say that I started a not so nice rumor about her. There was a small, very small, bit of truth to it but essentially it was an exaggeration of the facts.  I never apologized to her, in fact it wasn’t long after it happened that I left for college. I regret that. I will never see her again, I don’t even know if she is still alive. A few years ago, during a ritual of forgiveness, I asked God to let her know, wherever she is, that I am truly sorry. I also offered a prayer to forgive myself in order to let go of the feelings of guilt, and, anger I had felt towards her. It took a while to feel within the forgiveness I sought but eventually I did.

Memories are funny things, I don’t remember the same ones every year but the ones I do seem to be the ones God wants me to remember.  As I am 72 I have a lot of memories, I sincerely hope I have enough time in the life left to me to ask for forgiveness, and to express gratitude for those I haven’t remembered yet.  Only time will tell. 

Birthdays are not something I celebrate, but I find them useful.  They offer a time to recognize grace, ask for forgiveness, and find peace in a life that has seen some rocky roads.  I have no idea what memories I will form in the next years and I hope they will be good ones. I also hope they won’t be too embarrassing, but if they are, I know God and the angels will be nearby.  After all my guardian angel has that huge emergency kit just waiting for me to mess up.

Betty Buckley – Memory (1983 Tony Awards)

Ruth Jewell, © March 12, 2019

Fourteen Stars

Challenger, Space Shuttle Crew,  NASA 1985
Challenger, Space Shuttle Crew,
NASA 1985

NASA, 2003
NASA, 2003

Thirty years ago I was just coming home from a class when I heard of the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle on takeoff.  Like so many others I was devastated by the loss of life and never knew how to respond to it.  When the Columbia Shuttle exploded in 2003 I finally had a way to express my grief for all of the women and men in both shuttle disasters.  So I offer this poem in memory of 14 brave astronauts.

Fourteen Stars

There are fourteen new stars in the sky tonight
Fourteen new stars whose hopes shown so bright
Fourteen new stars to give us great light
Fourteen new stars to guide us this night
Fourteen new stars in Gods heart … held tight

Ruth Jewell, ©January 28, 2016

Praying With Nature – Prayerful Tuesday

Vancouver, BC Oct, 2013
Vancouver, BC Oct, 2013

Last night was the Autumnal Equinox.  The Sun crossed that imaginary line in the sky called the celestial equator from north to south.  Spring begins in the southern hemisphere and fall officially begins here in the north.  I don’t know about you but I’ve been feeling ‘fall’ for some time now.  The nights are cooler, the air has that dried leaf smell to it and the light, well, just looks different, fallish you might say. But with all things human we have to have a point in space and time that defines what we already know to be. We humans can be silly.

While summer is my favorite time I have to admit fall has its good points.  There is nothing like taking a walk in the park, leaves crunching beneath my feet, red gold above my head and a blue sky the color of which you only see in fall. This is the time of year I make a pilgrimage into our neighborhood park, Yost Park, and find a quiet corner to sit and pray with nature.  A thank you prayer for a lovely summer, a pray of gratitude that I am able to experience the joys, and beauty of all the seasons.  I reflect on the past summer and all of the joy and sorrow it brought.  As I gaze at the now flaming trees amongst the dark evergreens I allow memory’s to surface of past falls, and allow myself to sink into that deep connection to nature that comes only from giving me permission to feel the creative life of the surrounding world now slowing into slumber.  I often remember past fall walks with my father.  We used to walk through our fields that were once green and bursting with life but now covered in a sleepy haze the ground began to enter its winter sleep.

Fall is a good time for reflection, a time to take stock, a time to remember, and a time for rest. So for this week’s prayer practice I would like to offer you a Prayer of Examen with nature. Being outside and experiencing the smells and sights of the natural world often triggers memories of past walks by yourself or with others.  It gives the experience of the Examen a very immediate and fresh sense, allowing the  old memories to open  a deeper connection to the creator in today’s moment.

Prayer of Examen with Nature:

  1. Take 30 minutes, or more if you like, and go for a walk outside. Find a quiet place where you may sit without interruption.  Note: leave your cell phone at home.
  2. Let this time be just between you and God. In whatever way is most comfortable for you ask the Holy Spirit to guide your memories through your imagination.
  3. As you sit allow a memory to surface of an experience from the past summer or from a previous year where you felt deeply connected with nature and creation.
  4. In your imagination, visit your memory, recall details such as colors, smells, and sounds, even tasted. Take your time in remembering the details. If you have your journal with you may want to write them down.
  5. Walk through your memory, turning it around and viewing it from different angles. Are you with someone, or alone? Where was it? Was it a joyful memory or one that tugs at the heart with sadness?  Not all fall memories are happy ones and those that cause us grief can be just as meaningful as the joyful one.  Linger with your memory; let it soak in.
  6. When you feel you have spent sufficient time with your meditation notice how you feel at this moment and offer any gratitude that arises. Express thankfulness to God in the way that is most natural for you.  You may want to express your gratitude for the part of nature you have spent this time, recognizing the part it played in your imagination.
  7. You may wish to write your insights in your journal or just what you did or did not notice in your memory for later reflection.

May your time of reflection and rest in your quiet corner of creation help shape how you see and experience nature in the coming days and years.  May all creation bless you with rest and healing.

Ruth Jewell, ©September 23, 2014

Never Forget – Prayerful Tuesday

Working Military Dog
Working Military Dog

Yesterday was Memorial Day, the day we remember the service of those who have fought our wars and protect our borders.  We sometimes forget there are more than men in the line of fire. Women are now serving in positions where they too are potentially at risk.  And, there have always been animals, pigeons, and dogs who have laid down their lives for a cause they cannot understand and they do it for the love of the soldier partner.   Today I am asking you to remember in prayer those faithful winged and 4-footed creatures who have willingly give up their lives.

  • As You gaze at the picture take a deep breath and let it out slowly, take a second breath and let it out slowly, let your shoulders relax and your gaze soften.
  • Look deeply at the picture and let the colors and image enter your imagination. What feelings does this bring to the surface?  What memories or stories?  Imagine you are walking are a soldier whose lives and works with this faithful dog, what does that look like and feel like to you.
  • Respond to the image with a prayer for all God’s children who serve in dangerous places on this earth.  Offer a prayer of intercession and gratitude for the service men, service women, and service animals who protect us while we sleep.
  • Continue to gaze at the picture, breathe deeply and rest quietly.  Let God pray in you in silence beyond words.

Ruth Jewell,  ©May 27, 2014