JAMES BEHRENS: We create wondrous memories each day of our lives

We create wondrous memories each day of our lives

My friend was telling me how often he dwells on the past. I know him fairly well and he impresses me as one who lives in the present quite well.

He is attentive and faithful to his responsibilities. He is a monk here and is especially faithful in his search for God and how that search impacts on our day-to-day life. He gets along well with the other monks and yet is aware of his shortcomings. He works on them as best he can and I think he does quite well in rounding out the few rough edges that he has.

The past works on him as much as he works on the present. He told me how he thinks about the years when he was growing up. The memories come at night, before he falls off to sleep. He thinks back about the fields on the farm where he grew up and how his mom and dad sacrificed so much for him and his siblings.

They did not have much but never really wanted for anything. He remembers the rooms in the house and in his mind's eye wanders through them, recalling all the many objects that filled each room: the kitchen tables and chairs, the drapes on the windows that his mom made, his dad's favorite chair in the living room, the voice of his mom calling to him in the morning to get up and ready for school.

He said that he felt a deep sadness when he looked back and I asked him why, though I sensed that I already knew the answer because he and I share in common our wanderings to what was and how good it was. He paused for a moment and then said that he took it all for granted, never realized how good it was when it was taking place. I could understand that. I can own it from my own experience.

Later, I thought about him and our pasts. We have both been here a long time and in some ways the monastic life has a different kind of past. Since we have been in the same place, it has not yet receded to the extent where it all is left behind.

It is all very much here. Maybe that is why time seems to go so fast. The years blend with a kind of sameness. Yet something takes place within these years.

The heart of my friend is warm, is good, is sensitive. His heart grew all through the years and, in no small measure, was formed by the love his parents showered upon him in a place and time that no longer exist but yet still live in him.

Maybe we only really miss that which is totally gone and beyond our grasp. Maybe that is why memories ache. But when youth fades, and our home and the fields of our youth give way to new places and new people, we meet them with hearts freely fashioned by love.

I do not know if people outside these cloistered walls have the time to look back much on their lives. Maybe poets and writers do, but life for a lot of people moves fast and often moves from one place to another. There isn't a lot of time to look back.

The wondrous blend of time and labor and fidelity bequeath their gifts of love to all people, no matter where they are in life. But here, we seem to be called to fall asleep at night with our memories of the past, memories that persist in telling us that great love was there, given through such small and ordinary ways. It grew. And we are called by our memories to know that the same wonder is happening here, this place that takes a long time to become a past memory.

Father James Stephen (Jeff) Behrens, O.C.S.O., serves at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Ga. Highway 212 S.W., Conyers. His email address is james@trappist.net.