The Power of Memories

I’ve realized something quite profound recently. It started with a project my daughter had to do for her language arts class. She was to write a timeline of all her pivotal moments in her short little history, and explain the impact those moments had on her. I thought this would be an interesting pursuit and I was eagerly waiting to see the finished product and learn of what she believed defined her very existence. When she was done, she proudly brought the large paper over to me, decorated beautifully and full of graphics and artistry of a typical 11 year old dreamer. I focused in on the ‘moments’ she shared.

I was dumbfounded.

Precious pic of Cass

Most of her moments that she rendered significant were from the last two years. I immediately burst with “Really? You didn’t write anything about…” I began to list several events that outlined her history and many of them were triumphant or debilitating experiences that truly captured the essence of her life. She had no response except a confusing, “I don’t remember that mom.”

I was blown. Away.

The only remnant of her ten years of being sick and struggling through medical procedures, treatments, illnesses, doctor visits, specialists, ER visits, hospital stays and surgeries and medicines and countless other traumatic trials was her claiming to remember meeting her ENT doctor for the first time as she noted how nice he was and that she never left him without a lollipop stuck in her shoe.

Wow.

That’s it?

She finds nothing else significant in her first ten years of life.

How could that be?

I’m sure if I prodded and gave her some clues and painted some pictures of circumstances and teachers and people and on goings in her younger years, she might release that “Oh, yeah!” But without my guidance, my prompting, my actually telling her about these memories- she doesn’t pull them up from her mind.

I find that utterly amazing.

Fascinating really.

Because I remember it all.

I could go into vivid detail about each and every breathing treatment I went to the school to give her, up through third grade. Hundreds of them. I could tell you the look on the doctor’s faces, each one of them- from the Pulmonologist to the GI specialist, and each doctor in between. I could still hear her coughing, and her precious moaning and crying in pain. I could see her twirling in a tutu wearing a wig while singing every song on every cd I ever gave her, as she coughed and coughed and had no problem regaining her step right after. I could count the capillaries burst in her face from the pressure for days and days of this torture. I remember the pit in my heart after an ultra sound or procedure or evaluation, and all those moments rendering a diagnosis, where my stomach curled and my voice trembled and I walked out even more confused than before, clinging to a desperate hope for healing. These were the years of ongoing new developments and twists and turns in a drama that seemed to never end.

I could describe the therapy rooms, the testing, the chunks of hair she pulled out of her head and the way we would sing through endless painfully long nights of her coughing to the point of vomiting over and over again, out on the cold back deck wrapped in blankets attempting to force her breathing into submission. I could tell you every single time she came to, after anesthesia with such uncontrollable savagery; I would melt in tears and say “This is NOT my baby!” I could share how every single doctor fell in love with her smile. I could reveal how each time I took her to another medical facility, another therapy, another doctor, I was nearly shaking and wanting to fall to the ground and give up. I could tell you what a warrior this girl was through it all.

She remembers an ENT with a lollipop.

Oh she knows these stories, as told through the years of me recalling her bravery, her fight, her adorable light and her ultimate healing. She has heard me talk about each and every medical issue she has had, through the countless doctor visits and patient assessments and evaluations and tests she has been through.

But when asked to produce her own timeline of significance, she doesn’t include them- because they don’t define her.

What defines her are the things she identified in her project:

*When she started going on dates with her mom to her favorite restaurant, she realized she loved spending this special time with her mom and she loved pizza!

*When she met a kind doctor who gave her lollipops, she realized that doctors were kind and she didn’t have to be afraid of them.

*When she joined the guitar club, she realized her love of music.

*When she finished her first book, she realized her love of reading.

*When she climbed her first tree, she realized her love for nature.

*When she began swimming for a swim team, she realized her love for swimming.

*When she went into the ocean for the first time, she realized her love for the beach.

I love that THESE are the things that define who she is. And yet? I know better.

I know that the first ten years of her life built the foundation of her character. Those traumatic years created a strong, resilient, profoundly compassionate heart that perseveres through challenges and is constantly intentional with her choices. Those trials developed within her, a spirit of tenacity and willingness to put her mind into her studies, and pour forth her dedication and commitment to life’s demands and opportunities.

This girl never gives up. Ever.

Those were her biggest growing years, and I didn’t know it until now. Those were the years she was defined as sick, a medical anomaly, fragile, and surprisingly strong. Beautifully unique.  And despite everything she endured…

Her spirit soared.

She kept rising through the rubble of every fall and carrying on like a true victor in the war- ultimately walking off the battlefield without a scar.  She only has marks of this timeline, on paper and in my memory…

But the totality of who she is, in essence is not the very events that are remembered, but the person she has become because of them.

I find that utterly amazing.

Fascinating really.

And perfectly on purpose.

What memories do you have that define who you are?

There is power in what you choose.

What defines you? We have the power to choose.

What defines you? We have the power to choose.

 

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Comments

  1. says

    Aw, I love that Cassidy doesn’t let her illness define her and will say I am in agreement though about she does remember and recall being amazing and beautiful, too! 😉

  2. says

    Oh Chris, I love that she doesn’t “remember.” It sounds horrible. Also, I love that she doesn’t think being sick defined her…LOVE that! You’ll never know if she’d be the strong resilient girl with out the trauma of her early years – or if she was born that way, so she could endure. And I adore that mom dates made the list!

    • says

      I’m still not sure if it was really the *pizza* that made the list or the *Mom dates*… LOL Perhaps, the combination. Yeah, we’ll go with that!

      I wonder too, about her spirit being naturally so strong and resilient, or if the experience of all that time struggling built it. I have seen her spirit from early on… and it has gained even more strength as the years continued. So maybe once again- it’s a combination!

  3. says

    What a beautiful post! And a great way to make such a significant point. If what we choose to remember defines us, I want to be more careful of what details I focus on – like your daughter, remembering the nice person with the lollipop instead of any trauma that day held. Thank you, Christine!

    • says

      You GOT IT Janet! Exactly!! We can learn a lot from Cass, can’t we? I know I can. I’m going to be choosing more carefully on what details I focus on!

  4. says

    I’m sure you wish you didn’t have to remember such devastating things. 🙁 But I think that it’s wonderful that she doesn’t. Children are so resilient! She sounds like a lovely girl.

    • says

      I am actually glad to remember the history although so traumatic! It is a record of how God has cared for and provided through the most difficult years of her (and mine!) life. I believe me telling Cass that very thing so often, has honestly helped define her positive and courageous identity. There’s something mighty powerful about recovering from something so hard, and realizing how our victory has been won, that builds our faith. So, because of that- I can look back and be reminded of how blessed we are to have survived it all. Does that make sense?

  5. says

    Isn’t that the truth? It’s so refreshing to realize that children remember the good stuff… that makes me feel a bit better about the times I lose my cool. Hopefully they’ll remember the fun we’ve had, not the yelling!

  6. says

    What a beautiful testimony. Yes. Something to learn – what we choose to remember defines who we are. Thank you for sharing!

    When I chat with our kids (they’re grown now) about our times together, homeschooling and moving and life, I’m also amazed at what either one remembers, and the other doesn’t.

    • says

      It’s just so fascinating, isn’t it? I’m not sure the inter-workings that go on in our own minds and that of our kids to choose one memory over another. But I really trust that God had a hand in it. I’m SO grateful He swept her clean of much of the trauma, so she could rise in her own identity.

  7. says

    I love this! How amazing she is and how like Jesus and Easter. Full of hope and the things that matter. So full of why she’s here and that includes pizza with her mom! This girl has wisdom.

    • says

      “Full of hope and things that matter.” YES!! She has great wisdom! May we all learn to do the same… focus on those things that matter and fill ourselves with the lift of hope. <3

  8. says

    Oh, what a sweet story. It is amazing how children can do a mental dump of all of the difficult stuff and just move on. Move on to all of the good things that life has to offer them. Move on and not dwell on the past. Move on and embrace the present and future. Sounds like she is a beautiful girl.

    • says

      Thank you Mary! She is a great girl, and oh how I wish we as adults could do the very same thing. I think my girl is on to something. 🙂

  9. says

    Love this post! That “What we choose to remember defines who we are” is so profound and true, but what makes us choose some memories over others is still a mystery, which is probably why I like reading memoirs. Thank you for sharing this post with me.

    • says

      It is pretty fascinating, how we choose what defines us and weed out the rest, isn’t it? This makes me really think about my choices, my memories and what power I give them in my own identity.

  10. says

    Such a tender and needed reminder that what we think defines others (even those closest to us) can differ greatly from what they believe does. Blessings to you both, dear one. May you be held in health by compassionate and Knowing hands.

    With heart,
    Dani

    • says

      It’s really so amazing to think how different our perspectives are, and you touch on such a common truth Dani! It’s so important to understand how others define themselves, and not draw our own conclusions. May you TOO, be ‘held in health by compassionate and Knowing hands. <--- Oh, how I adore that, and you. <3

  11. says

    Absolutely beautiful, Chris! All that hardship and all that pain made her the strong young woman she is and the strong woman she will be. But it’s wonderful that she doesn’t remember any of that as defining. It defined her with defining her fully. Her list is wonderful!

    • says

      Thanks so much Sarah! She quite a marvel, this one. I’m SO relieved she has a new perspective on who she is. I absolutely love that. 🙂

  12. says

    Gorgeous. I’m with what they said – that I’m glad she doesn’t remember in the same painful detail you did, and that she has overcome such odds to define her own self in beautiful ways. WTG, CASS!

    • says

      It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? Oh, how I love that so much. I swear God had a hand in this. I swear He did. It doesn’t surprise me in the least. <3

  13. says

    What a great lesson that is to us as adults! Do not focus on the negative things or let the bad things define who we are. Focus instead on letting the good things in our lives define us. So simple and so true and yet so very hard to do sometimes. You just have to love a child’s perspective sometimes. Very rarely do they over-complicate things like we do. Great post.

    • says

      You said that so beautifully, Amy! Exactly!! I love that she can do this so naturally, when it takes hard work and thoughtful intention to weed through our own muck to find the GOOD things in our lives that define us! We can learn so much from how our kids view the world and themselves.

    • says

      Yes, she has an amazing ability to embrace all GOOD things in her life. She always has had that kind of perspective, even when she was sick and struggling. I am SO grateful she lives in the light. Just so thankful for that trait. <3

  14. says

    The first part made me cry and your girl must have learned to overlook the pain and just remember the pure lessons she got from her experience! What a testimony!

    • says

      You know what Nance? I believe God cleared much of her memory, so that she could truly be transformed with a new found identity. God carried her through those years, and breathes beautiful fresh life in her every day! I thank Him for that over and over again… <3

  15. says

    Memories are so tricky, especially for children. I think it’s an amazing blessing that your daughter defines her life by the wonderful moments that helped shaped all those new found loves. It’s our job as parents to remember all that other stuff. You will never forget and she is happy- that is what counts!

    • says

      Us mamas don’t forget the trauma, the challenges, and the hurts… I think our kids have this amazing ability to weed them out as they begin to grab hold of their value and worth. I’m so grateful she has done just that!

  16. says

    You truly have an amazing daughter!!! I love that she has good memories and so many things that she loves and that makes her happy! That is what I pray for my boys every day!

    • says

      It comes so naturally for our kids I think, to be able to value those things that are GOOD and worthy of owning for themselves. I’m sure your boys do the same, Kim. Aren’t we lucky mamas, indeed. <3

  17. says

    I hung on every beautiful, meaningful word of this, Chris! I remember all of the many moments in hospitals and doctor offices with my children as well. I think we both spent far more time there than a mother should have to. I love that your precious daughter remembers the good and the love. She is certainly blessed. Much love to you both!

    • says

      Oh thank you so much dear friend!! I think you’re right about spending far too much time in those medical offices and hospitals with our children… Thank God we were somehow carried through, and I see God’s Hand all over it now. Even now, in her new perspective- clearly God’s work! <3

  18. says

    I’m fascinated by it too!! I always love how I might do one really nice thing in a week of crankiness and Scarlet zeroes in on that. When she draws pictures of me at school, I’m always doing something amazing – and she even remembers amazing things I did when she was THREE!
    Des had two wicked stomach bugs this winter and I asked Cassidy if he thought Des was traumatized by them.
    Des was running around at the time, stuffing cookies in his mouth, and Cassidy said, “He’s not, but you are.”
    And proud.

    • says

      Isn’t that AMAZING? I love that our kids naturally remember and cherish the GOOD parts, and we are often the only ones who dwell on the bad. I get it… I love Cassidy’s response. Ain’t that the truth!

  19. says

    Kids are incredible. Your daughter? She is the light and the amazing and the looking at the things that matter which is NOT her suffering thank GOD, but the moments that brought kindness and love to her. You should be so so proud. I know you are.

    • says

      I really am so proud of that girl!! Kids have a natural ability to move forward and choose to own parts of their history and themselves that is GOOD and WORTHY of declaring. We can learn so much from them… I know I do. 🙂

    • says

      Thank you Gary! Our children know what’s most important, and how to truly hold on to the most valuable parts and pieces of our history. We can learn so much from them. 🙂

  20. says

    I need to learn from your daughter. To focus on the good memories and forget about those that are not so pretty.

    They are relevant but really not worth dwelling in.

    This got me thinking. Thank you for sharing!

    • says

      You and me both, Lux! We can so easily consume ourselves with the things that are ‘not so pretty’, can’t we? I’m so glad this got you thinking too! We are a wonderful masterpiece filled with so many beautiful pieces, it’s what we choose to highlight to define who we are… that matters.

  21. says

    Your daughter sounds so unbelievably strong and resilient! This is so beautiful, and made me tear up. I can’t even being to imagine everything she has had to go through, and everything you have had to go through as her mom. I would think that while clearly she has gone through so much in her short life, seeing your *child* go through this has to be one of the most terrible things in the world. My daughter banged her mouth a month ago and it was the biggest accident she had to date. In the end it was very minor, but my goodness, how I wanted to take her pain away. She will never remember it, but I always will.

    • says

      It was SO hard… for SO long, Bev. Excruciating really. And yet? Here’s the record that she kept. WOW. Us mamas take it all in, but we don’t realize how incredidbly resilient our kiddos are, and I’m so grateful she has transformed into this strong beautiful and courageous girl.

  22. says

    It is wonderful to know how our kids see themselves, and so important for us to talk to them about it! I love that your daughter doesn’t define herself by her medical history – I have no doubt that this experience makes her a stronger person in general since she learned this lesson so early on.

    This assignment is a great exercise for her, and for you too, to get to know her better as an individual. I am so enjoying these years of seeing my kids grow into the people they are to become. 🙂

    • says

      It was really an amazing eye-opening experience, Andrea! I absolutely LOVE that she has been able to define herself by her own terms. LOVE that. <3

  23. says

    This is so beautiful, Christine! I love how you bring out your memories versus hers. And I love that her sweet heart sees the glass half full and rejoices in the blessings after times of darkness, pain, discouragement, fear, and discomfort. Oh how the children teach us because they know the warmth of Father’s lap so much better than we do! They stop to sit on it far more frequently. LOVE! Wish I lived close enough to meet you both with my little chickie (age 12) for mom/chickie time. Thank you for sharing this! What a great way to turn our heads toward blessings!

    • says

      Yeah… it was a beautiful perspective to take in. Our children can teach us so much about how we can view ourselves!! And oh, how LOVELY it would be to meet you and your chickie!! 🙂

  24. says

    Wow, you are so right none of that defines your miracle. Her spirit, her love of all things, her ability to say THAT is not me but THIS is….well she is quite incredible

  25. says

    This is truly an amazing insight, and she seems to be an exceptionally brave and optimistic girl. In fact, this inspires me to focus on the good in my life too.

  26. says

    Wow. So amazing! I often wonder what my kids will think of my blog posts later in life. What is so life changing to me in the moment may not have any significant impact on them at all. Very cool post! 🙂

  27. says

    This is SO wonderfully beautiful Chris. She is a wise little girl. She already understood that we do decide what’s worth remembering or not and that her past does not define who she is. The memories are painful but she is more than these memories. She is teaching us a great lesson. Stay blessed.

  28. says

    So interesting, Chris!! And what a lesson Cassidy has taught me through this post. I have very vivid memories of growing up with psoriasis (from age 9-25) – memories that I hate and that continue to define the way I see my physical self. Reading this, though, I realize that I can choose to remember so many other, happier things. Tell Cassidy I say Thanks for teaching me this and thank you for sharing it here in this space. XOXO

    • says

      Oh Lisa, I’m so glad that perhaps Cassidy can help you shift your perspective, and possibly what was and is really significant in your life! <3 We could all learn from this...

  29. says

    It’s so true though!! when I talk to my mom – she can get all emotional and recall the tough times we faced together. the wrong men and the divorces that followed. never having enough money, etc. etc. But I remember a childhood of cats in haylofts, and the sweet scent of hay, and riding bareback across a summer meadow, and swimming in the lake. I remember fairs with grandpa, and picnics with my cousins, and theatre and fancy dinners those times my mom could afford them. It shows me that memory can certainly build a laneway: but you absolutely can choose the direction of the path.

  30. says

    How lovely that Cassidy remembers those lovely things and not the struggles she had.
    And I also agree with you that the early struggles will have helped shape how she responds to life.
    i was struck by the way doing something for the first time gave her the realisation she loved that. There’s something really wonderful about that.
    That being in a swim team made her realise her love of swimming really hit me in particular because one of my daughters had the exact opposite experience – she loved swimming until she joined a team and felt pressure when competing. Like Cassidy she had a lot of illness, and eventually she hated going to training sessions because she’d fallen behind. She left the team and didn’t swim for a year or more, but recently has started going to the pool with a friend for fitness and fun – so her love of it is returning. I’m not even sure why I’m telling you this – I because maybe it illustrates how we can experience similar circumstances but come away with different feelings because of what we take into it?

    Anyway, it is lovely that both you and Cassidy got so much from doing the timeline!

    • says

      Oh I am just so sorry your daughter had such a horrible experience with swim team Yvonne! It’s awful, when they have to endure such struggles. My heart hurts for her, having to contend with that kind of pressure! I’m so glad she is able to get back into the pool and fuel her desire and love for the sport again.

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