The Weight of Memory

I recently spent the morning looking for some identification for Johanna.  Her new doctor, and the clinic she works at, needed a form of picture identification for her, preferably a driver’s license.  Johanna hasn’t driven in six years and no longer has a valid driver’s license, so I had to dig around old documentation, trying to find something we could use to ‘prove’ Johanna’s identity.  As I dug around, I ran into boxes of old pictures,  old clothes, even Johanna’s old wallet.  Each image, article of clothing, or old card represented a different time – a time when she was able to drive, to shop, or even go out of the house and see her nieces.  Every item was a reminder of what has passed, and brought a sense of profound loss.  Her ID cards have expired, the old clothes don’t fit her emaciated body, and the nieces in the pictures are five years older.   Johanna has been entombed by her disease, her life put on hold as she lives inside this house. 

The weight of memory is heavy.  Knowledge of what is gone, what is irredeemably lost to time, is a reminder of profound powerlessness.  Like trying to make sense of a towering seaside cliff face, endlessly etched by the relentless power of the elements, so I too felt small and overwhelmed sitting on the floor of my room rifling through images and paperwork, swept up in grief and contemplation.  I longed to relive some of these moments, while being thankful others had passed.  I wondered at all the painful and strange ways we’ve come to our current circumstances and grieved the ongoing struggles of our daily life. I sensed the way these memories have given my life the shape that it has.

When I was done looking through these artifacts of the past, and had found the best picture identification I could find, I did not feel a sense of clarity.  Instead I felt the impacts of many moments, happy and sad, that have led to our difficult life now.  I wanted these memories to paint a picture of arrival, to fit together and reveal a larger whole.  Instead, I just felt a sense of loss, a sense of discouraged stupefaction.  Without realizing it, I was looking for these memories to help me make sense of Johanna’s illness and our daily troubles. I was remembering as a way to order the chaos of the past, but instead found myself in the chaos of the present.

Memory is more than the recall of an event, it is the making of meaning out of the past.  The trouble with it, then, is when you can’t make sense of it.  Every day, I wake up with the knowledge that Johanna’s health is fragile, that her emaciated body bodes disaster.  There has been trouble at every turn for her, and so much good seems to have been lost.  Yet, as I rose from my search for her identification, I felt a sense of thankfulness.  In the midst of our own troubling circumstances I was thankful that the story of the Gospel, of Jesus, was not a story those around him could make sense of in the moment.  In particular, I thought of the many instances in Luke’s account of Jesus’ life, when His disciples were confused and unable to understand their Teacher’s actions and sayings. I felt thankful that the message of the Gospel is one of great good in the midst of great trouble.  I felt Johanna’s and my story at home in the larger story of Jesus Christ.  As Jesus said to his disciples, ‘In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.’

Author: Scott Watkins

My name is Scott Watkins and I'm married to an incredible wife, Johanna. She suffers from a severe form of Mast Cell Activations Syndrome (MCAS). My website is all about our lives, and mine particularly as a caregiver, husband, and follower of Christ.

17 thoughts

    1. Hi Scott and Johanna,
      I just want to say that we love you so much and pray for you. We miss you both. Please let Johanna know that Joel and Jaret both love her and send her many hugs. May our God though His Spirit comfort you my dear brothers. One day all pain and suffering and disease and sadness will be taken away, that is our Hope.

      1. Hi Feliza!
        It’s so good to hear from you. We miss you all! Johanna was so blessed to hear you have been praying for her. Thank you! May you and your family be richly blessed.

    2. I love reading your blog. I hope you two are doing well in the midst of everything. 😊

    1. Thank you for these kind words, Erin! May the Lord do the same for you in these tumultuous times. Still miss seeing you all at Hope!

  1. Scott & Johanna, I was going through items on my desk and in a small drawer where I keep a few important thank you card I get of people that God has laid on my heart. I found the thank you card you sent to me with your picture on it of days of happier times when Johanna was well. I read the verse you put on it of Luke 3:5 and the sweet note you put on the back. I decided to look you up again to see how things were going and I read what you wrote today 10/19/20 God directed me today to your message update. My heart goes out to both of you and my prayers that God would have mercy and healing. You are an amazing young man an amazing husband God bless you for the unselfish love, caring compassionate heart you have for your beautiful wife Johanna. Tears and sorrow for all that Johanna has been going through these past years. Is your gofundme account still open if so I would like to help you out if I can. Please let me know. Love in Christ Bonnie Randall

    1. Hey Bonnie, thank you for your kind words, your prayers, and encouragement. I sent you an email concerning the latter part of your post!

    1. Thank you for the encouragement and continued prayers, Jane. Blessings to you and your family!

  2. “Memory is more than the recall of an event, it is the making of meaning out of the past.” What an incredible thought, Scott. You have written of what so many of us yearn to understand, what we try to put into words. Thank you for your insightful writing about the perspectives God is opening up for you. Your hope and trust in God is something we all need, especially at this time, and through your grief, we gain wisdom.
    Love to you and Johanna. Rod

    1. Good to hear from you Rod! Thanks for your encouragement, it helps motivate me to keep writing, even when I feel I have little to say amidst the troubles of Johanna’s day-to-day life. I shared this comment with Johanna, and she was so happy to hear from you. We both want to make sure you say ‘hi’ to Eloise from us! Blessings to you both!

  3. Hi Scott: what a beautiful and meaningful letter. You are very insightful bringing your emotions to scripture and finding some meaning. I have to admit, I was concerned by not hearing from you and Johanna. Know that you both are in our prayers. G-d Bless you both….

    1. Hi Gary, good to hear from you. Thank you for the encouragement and prayers. Johanna and I are so thankful we are joined in prayer as we ask God to heal her. Blessings to you today, Gary.

  4. I had signed up to follow you guys on caring bridge quite awhile ago, when you needed olive oil. Due to a friend’s brain tumor, I logged in again and saw your faces again. I want to say how beautiful you both are to the Lord, how glorious and shining your faith is before him. Praying for your tired bodies, that in all the weakness you feel, you may feel even more the resurrection power of our Lord Jesus bringing you to life one moment at a time. So grateful for your witness to the reality of God, dear brother. L

    You may have heard Andrew Peterson’s Resurrection Letters album. If not, may it encourage you.

    1. Thank you for your encouraging words and prayers, blythe. I hadn’t realized I had heard some of Andrew Peterson’s Resurrection Letters album, until I searched for it just now, and one of his songs came up in my history. Thanks for the recommendation, I’m giving in another listen!

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