“Whatever became of …?” Or “remember when …?”

These were frequent questions over the course of a recent “mini reunion” of my parents and siblings in Barbados. As we gathered, made final preparations and celebrated our parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, outbursts of laughter and pointed exclamations were often present as we recalled many great (and sometimes not-so-pleasant) memories of our childhood while growing up on the island. On one occasion, we sat around our parents’ living room and perused aged but carefully preserved albums, boxes and envelopes bulging with photographs. Each picture was a visual cue that had the power to transport us to long-forgotten occasions in well-known places. Stories and vignettes often followed, prompting further recollections that aroused one sense or another, or revived emotions, harking back to the life we previously lived.

On my last evening, we made an impromptu detour through the neighborhood where we had spent the most of our time as children. The sights of old and new dwellings evoked floods of new memories and solidified others that had drifted like mist in and out of our earlier conversations, when one or more person could not “remember when.”

For me, this recollection of events and stories (whether positive or negative in nature) triggered floods of new emotions and strengthened the bonds between me and each member of our immediate family unit. While our holiday was brief, these “happy feelings” followed me home, and I continue to be surprised at and pleased with the heightened “sense of belonging” that persists.

As I reflected on this recent experience and the new memories we created during that special week, my thoughts drifted to two special ladies in my life for whom lost memories are a daily reality. For my loving mother-in-law, Lena, and my dear friend, Hulda, the names of their visitors or the nature of a meal just eaten are examples of the memories that frequently elude them. Thus, I am overjoyed when Lena smiles in recognition and greets me with “What a pleasant surprise!” and when Hulda’s initial vacant stare is followed by “Estherlita, how did you find me?” In either case, I appreciate every opportunity to jog their memories with photos of people they once knew, or elicit conversation with images and stories of my most recent exploits.

What is most intriguing is that both ladies readily remember Scripture and hymns when prompted, recall God’s goodness and give thanks for all he continues to do. Even more potent is the incomprehensible peace and comfort that is evident when these memories are activated. In my opinion, this is a direct result of their efforts to “remember [their] Creator in the days of [their] youth … ” (Ecclesiastes 12:1). We often focus on the benefits to youth of these “acts of remembering,” which include well-defined acts of spiritual formation: reading and memorization of Scripture, meditation, prayer, singing and/or listening to “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.”

However, Lena and Hulda each demonstrate that these “acts of remembering” their Creator and following Christ in their earlier years are now paying dividends in this season of life. While I am not an expert on dementia, my experience with Lena and Hulda suggests that they are the beneficiaries of what I am calling involuntary or reflexive “memory muscles” that respond to various prompts in ways that their brain cells cannot.

These experiences have led me to treasure the ability to create and recall memories, especially as it relates to “remembering my Creator,” providing the opportunity to create a time capsule that will, either voluntarily or involuntarily, yield lasting fruit.

How will you create memories of your Creator that will last? God used a rainbow during a recent trip to Barbados to do just that. I am now assigning images to Scripture as I memorize God’s Word in order to “lock in” the memories and then recall them in the future.

What will be your visual prompt?

“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”— before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim …” (Ecclesiastes 12:1-3).