Chasing Memories

Chasing Memories

I ask my brother over the phone. “Do you remember driving down the dirt road to the ranch house and coming upon a dead horse on the side of the road?”

“Yeah, I vaguely remember.”

When we were kids,  Dad explained that while men rounded up a herd of cattle, a cow hooked one of the cowboy’s horses in the gut. For a year or two, every time we drove down the ranch road, we saw the decaying skeleton— first with its hide and four limbs, then, one-at-a-time, a leg went missing, then two— dragged off by coyotes and wolves, until only a large ribcage and skull marked the spot. At some point, all the horse’s bones scattered, and no evidence of the horse remained.

“Do you know what happened or when that was?”

“You asked about the horse before, so I asked Buddy, because he would have been working cattle that day. Now I don’t remember what he said.”

My brother spoke through speakerphone, and his wife chimed in. She accompanied him when he visited our older friend. “Buddy said he followed a bull into the brush and knew at the time that it was a bad decision. Sure enough that bull turned on him and gored his horse.” I clenched my teeth, though I knew the outcome. 

My sister-in-law continued. “Buddy had to walk all the way back to his truck and drive to a phone to call the vet. The horse died before the vet could get there.”

“Oh,” I said and nodded my head with enlightenment. “Seeing that corpse over and over bothered me for a long, long time, but those added details change a lot for me. Knowing it was a bull, not a cow, and Buddy tried to save his horse change my thoughts about two other events I wrote about.”

“He didn’t say when it happened, and I didn’t ask,” my brother interjected.

“That’s okay. You’ve given me information I didn’t have. Thank you for asking Buddy about it.”

A few months ago, I began writing scenes from childhood. Events, both happy and disconcerting, hibernated in my memory through a child’s-perspective, unchanged from when they entered the caves of my mind. Stirring memories out of hiding prompts more questions, except now I view them as an adult. Fewer people, however, can help provide answers. 

Chasing elusive memories alarms me at times. My reliable brother’s slip in memory, a remarkable event, points out that he will not always be available on the other side of a phone call. I try to grab hold of memories and people, and like a dream, they disintegrate into filmy shreds and slip through my fingers. 

Losing, in any form, sparks the fuse of a string of emotions, beginning with a burst of frustration. Why can’t I find this stupid thing? If the loss has great value, anger’s fuse blows next. How could we have lost this—it’s someone’s fault. When important losses remain lost despite persistent hunting, panic flares, and the search expands into ridiculous places. 

Podcasts advise, “Just let it go.” 

I spoke to a friend about this. “I can’t let it go. I’d rather hand it over to someone,” I told her.

She nodded emphatically. “There’s a difference, you know.” She grabbed my hands and crushed them together, squeezing them between her own hands. 

“I always give them to Jesus.”

We both would rather cram our losses into Someone else’s grip–Someone who will not lose them and who sees exactly where the lost memory or person hovers— Someone who knows best whether to reveal the lost’s location or not. 

Father in heaven, I hand over the memories of my childhood and entrust all my relatives no longer accessible into Your care. I gather the whole cabinet of my mind and set it in Your hands to curate, so its contents will not decay–forever gone like the dead horse. 

Please open memories lodged in the folds of my mind. Give clarity as I view them through the distance of time, so I may grow in understanding, forgiveness and gratefulness. Guard me from straying from truth where the edges of memories fray, and where they cut, use them to debride misunderstandings and lies. 

May You wake my awareness of Jesus’ redemptive work in the events I recall. To You, who unveils plans formed before time, be glory and praise. Amen.

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