Disconnect, re-connect. Touch down, take off. Sleep. Sleep some more. Recently, life has just been a whirlwind of moving. It’s been almost a month since I slept in my own room. Instead, I’ve been all over the place on beds, floors and couches, a few sleeps at a time. Now I’m back. Still not in my bed, but in my house at least. And while in some ways it’s good to get back into routine, In other ways, routine is hard. I’m faced with the job of reconnecting — of going back to classes, meeting people, doing homework, doing laundry, and trying to return to “normal”. Only, normal isn’t always where my heart would like to be.
A week ago today, I said goodbye to my girlfriend, Michelle, and boarded a plane back to Alberta and my life in Edmonton. These few days have been filled with remembering. Re-membering. I’ve never really thought about the word before. I suppose it’s the opposite of dismembering — cutting off a persons limbs, dividing them or tearing them apart, as Oxford Dictionary of English puts it. Time and distance, they both seem to dismember. Whether it’s people, places, or things, separation hurts as distance pulls apart, muddies memories and fades recollections. But I re-member — piecing together the fragments of memory, attempting to undo the separation — to somehow preserve.
I have a pair of mittens Michelle wore a few times when I was with her, when her hands were freezing and her gloves weren’t warm enough to help. Now they smell like her, and if I hold them to my nose and close my eyes, I’m almost there. Almost with her. I remember. I walk back through memories, attempting to freeze a moment or hold on to a thought, a smile or a word. I stop reading mid-sentence in a book Michelle lent me, to trace the folded crease in the corner of the page — knowing that her fingers were there a few weeks ago, folding that spot to mark the page. I use a note from her as a bookmark — a note from our short time in Montana, left on the door for me when I arrived late at night. “We’re glad you’re here,” it ended. A little smiley face peeks out at me from where it sticks out of my book. I cherish the pieces — all the little dismembered fragments.
I fear the way memories seem to slip away in time, and fade. It’s getting harder to smell the scent on the mittens now. Before long they’ll be back to being “normal”, and I’ll start wearing them again, and stop trying to preserve that little hint of a memory. Thankfully Skype, letters, emails and pictures make up for that fading smell. They fill that space between the next plane ticket and the next goodbye. They help the remembering.
I remember. I try with so many things. I try desperately to preserve Pakistan in my mind, to gather together memories in a room somewhere in my heart, where I can go back and walk through them all, hoping they haven’t changed. I hoard the memories together, as many as I can, so they’ll be there, somewhere. But they always change. Change is inevitable. Memory is fluid, and fragile, just like the hearts it lives in. I find comfort in a verse Michelle shared with me this week – in knowing that there’s One who never forgets, whose memories don’t fade, and who isn’t dismembered by time or distance. And even when my foolish heart forgets, I am remembered.
Shout for joy, O heavens! And rejoice, O earth!
Break forth into joyful shouting, O mountains!
For the Lord has comforted His people
And will have compassion on His afflicted.
But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me,
And the Lord has forgotten me.”
“Can a woman forget her nursing child
And have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.
“Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
Your walls are continually before Me.