Honoring Memories

By Rev. Toni Stephens Coleman
Honoring Memories

Affirmation: We are now and forevermore one in the love of God.


Memories are as unique as we are. They are the cumulative echo of our life experiences. However, it is important to recognize that as an echo, our memories are not the actuality of our lives.

Memory helps make us who we are. If we couldn’t recall the who, what, where, when, and why of our everyday lives, we would not be able to learn new information, form lasting relationships, or even function in most daily situations.

People who have forgotten or don’t have functioning memories have an extremely difficult time taking care of themselves. Memory has permitted our species to survive and advance to the point of being technological beings.

Memory allows our brains to encode, store, and retrieve the information our senses provide from each experience. Then it allows us to think about what we have experienced, recalling it for reference and reuse.

One of the amazing things about memory is that we can reexperience what we have previously experienced. A memory can stir up the same feelings and thoughts we had the first time around.

That’s good news and not so good. Painful, frightening, difficult memories may often be experienced anew. When we have troubling memories, it is important to make peace with them and find ways to honor the teaching that can be found in them.

Memories can be adjusted to serve us—to help us understand or forgive. Once an experience has become a memory, it’s only a story we tell ourselves and may tell others.

That makes it possible to rewrite the story with a positive and useful outcome. Look for the key learning in the experience and rephrase it for yourself as: “The moral of this story is …” “The gift from this experience is …” or “What I learned is …” This will change the energy and feelings attached to the memory.

Another way to change a memory for the better is to play it out differently. This can be done through imagination—mentally recreating an experience then looking for details to support a different outcome or playing it through to a peaceful resolution.

You may also be able to use props or stand-ins (maybe a chair or pillow) to visualize the situation and interact with it. Share your thoughts and feelings intensely. This is especially helpful when a participant in your memory has died and you need resolution and completion.

Ask a trusted friend to interact with you. Retell the story in detail, then ask your friend to provide a believable, loving, and peaceful resolution.

You know these techniques are working when you feel the full level of passionate emotion you felt with the original experience, and it then evolves into a more peaceful emotion. Your feelings are the key.

Remember, memories are echoes of what was or what happened. They represent our perspectives, not the ultimate truth or what is right. The best way to honor a memory is to find value in it, and make it useful for yourself and others.

Honoring memories is to find the divine light in them, dissipating darkness and sadness, and showing the way for yourself and others.

Quotes to honor memories:

“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It's the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”

―Lois Lowry, The Giver

“No matter how much suffering you went through, you never wanted to let go of those memories.”

―Haruki Murakami

“Humans, not places, make memories.”

―Ama Ata Aidoo

“Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.”

―L.M. Montgomery, The Story Girl

“The things we do outlast our mortality. The things we do are like monuments that people build to honor heroes after they've died. They're like the pyramids that the Egyptians built to honor the pharaohs. Only instead of being made of stone, they're made out of the memories people have of you.”

―R.J. Palacio, Wonder

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.” (from an Irish headstone)

―Richard Puz, The Carolinian