I’m interested in writing within the tensions of our humanity with the both and: our joy and our grief, beauty and brokenness, courage and fear, celebration and rage, and everything in between.
My hope is that my writing has the ability to connect to what lies at the core of being human. Whether I am writing poetry, a newsletter, or an essay, my writing aims to be honest, attentive, and centered around connection. May these words housed here meet you and encourage you.
When I was trying to determine the next prompt to share with people, I was seeking to find a word that would feel open-ended and a word that could invoke a potentially healing writing process. When I thought about the word healing, the word remember came to my mind. The word remember and the very act of remembering can invoke joy, grief, peace, unrest, and everything in between.
Remembering can hold space for the past as we dance with nostalgia and shift through days of old. It can ground us in the presence as we seek to remember the here and now. And, it can speak into the future as we hear the voices around us and often the small voice inside of us says, “remember, you can grow”.
Remember is a word that travels throughout generations to connect us together today. It is a word that connects us to our younger selves, to those who have gone before us, and to those who will come after us.
This compilation encapsulates the beautiful multiplicity of remember. I hope the act of reading the words shared by these writers brings you into your own space of healing and remembering in whatever way it is that you need.
Thanks to Poem by Poem by JUAN FELIPE HERRERA for inspiration
remembering by remembering
we can end the violence
of the everyday
in our own heads
pay a penance to childhood
old traumas old joys
one day they’ll be medals of pride
you have a remembering
it’s open, waiting for you
can visit revisit find it hold it
tear it apart limb from limb til it’s
build new rememberings that serve you
do not ask if the joy comes from
the remembering or the deconstructing
or from God but receive
remembering by remembering
“Aching to Remember”
new years morning i reach out to remember
memories turn away from me, begging for more time
not ready to leave warmer dreams of December
daybreak invites me forward but i am desperate to rewind
powerless as each second steals details from my mind
dreams ending may be obvious but waking up still feels blind
the first day of new beginnings and I’m already behind
maybe if i tuck the memories in, hide them from light
could these dreams stay longer if i hold them tight?
we buried last year in glitter and champagne
drowning it with dreams of what will be best for us
still can’t help but wonder if it’s worth the growing pains
Remember September and the love we shared
Life without worry or regard for care
Remember September when times were easy
When nothing you did could not please me
Do you remember November
When the cold air blows?
Life moves fast
Along with it your soul
In November remember the leaves changing hue
From plexiglass desks to empty church pews
In December we remember the changing times
LIfe’s moving fast
Better get in line
Remember December and the cold that it brings
Dancing on the snowfall in anticipation of spring
It feels like I’ve been full-out sprinting since August,
Never pausing to take more than a breath or two
Just enough to keep my feet moving forward,
Always looking down at my feet.
And when I finally stopped and looking around,
I saw that I had made it.
I remember thinking there was absolutely no way I could make it.
I remember feeling the sting of failure – of knowing I didn’t do it the right way.
Even worse, I remember the fear of failure – it struck before I started running and rained over me like a dark cloud.
I remember the feeling of a breakthrough – of knowing that I made progress,
Glancing up just one to see a student’s smile or hear a question or idea –
A rare moment when my feet moved without me watching them.
I remember the days when I came home and thought,
“How in the world can I do it again tomorrow?”
The feeling of defeat, almost worse than failure,
And disillusionment at the idea of any success.
I remember asking for help, and I also remember doing it alone.
I remember being so thankful to get to ask questions, something I normally despise.
I remember the feeling of finally getting comfortable in my skin – of giving answers with confidence behind them, of my heartbeat evening out as I stepped into my new life.
I remember the excitement each day, getting started, saying hello, faces becoming pieces of my life I loved to see each morning.
How do I move on from these connections?
I look up from my feet.
How do I start back over?
I look back down to my feet. They are still moving forward.
I remember crossing the finish line.
The bell rings. It’s all over.
I look down at my feet, and they surge forward.
When I stop, I feel my momentum. It almost throws me to the ground.
How long have I been running?
I look down.
I look back.
I can see the race I’ve run. It’s a blur.
My memories are attached to my feet as I try to remember the hills and turns and people cheering me on along the way.
Mostly, I remember my feet moving forward each day.
But I also remember the times I looked up – I can see their faces so clearly.
I can feel it all like wind on my face as I run:
The fear, the doubt, the anger, the exhaustion,
The triumph, the excitement,
The gentle warmth of finding my rhythm and my footing,
The cool blow of missing a step,
The looking ahead at the race and then looking back down at my feet.
Mostly, I remember my feet,
Always moving forward.
But sometimes, I remember looking up.
I remember it all as I put my feet in position,
As I look up at the race before me, as the gun sounds.
This time, I think, I will look up more often.
I wrote a paper when I was 19 about remembering. I called it “Remember, Re-Member.” I claim that remembering is an act. That it’s active, continual. I cite the Latinate origins of the prefix “re-,“ as it signifies not only “again” but “again and again.” I claim all sorts of things about remembering — how in collectively remembering trauma, we re-member those who can empathize with us, we build community. And how remembering looks a lot like updating our language for things, again and again.
If I had written the paper today, I would have most likely cited the Oxford English Dictionary definition: that to remember is “to put together again, to reverse the dismembering of.” But I didn’t have that sort of understanding back then. My memories were being dismembered.
I’ve always had a hard time remembering. In fourth grade, we had to memorize all 50 state capitals. I can tell you every single one, still, to this day. But if you were to ask me how fourth grade was, how I felt, who I was as a fourth grader, I’d have no clue how to answer you.
It feels like all my memories from childhood have left in bulk. Control-A, delete. Like years of my life are blank spaces, devoid of most anything. And now that I’m 23, I’m realizing that fourth-grade me didn’t know how to feel. She didn’t know how to show up as herself. Each moment exists, then proceeds to be passively dismembered, due to her emotional inactivity. She was numb, impenetrable. She thought it was easier, less risky for everyone else, to be blank. She learned somewhere along the way to strip herself of the part of her that would catch things. She had no stick, she was a smooth sheet of metal; no crags, no cracks.
And it became a vicious cycle. The less she remembered, the more she became dismembered, the harder it became to exist except in passive pieces — dissolving with the rush of each passing day. And her substitute sheet of metal was a good reflector, as it turns out. Other people liked her; they could more easily see themselves when she was around. But she had no substance of her own.
Remembering, then, comes with a lot of baggage. Each gesture back feels simultaneously too much and not enough, I’m overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time. A lot is buried really deep.
But I can’t help but think that my paper has paved the way for me. A prophecy of sorts. That re-membering the people closest to me has helped me remember myself. I found my arms in poetry. I found my legs by using them. With help. Reverse the dismembering. Re-membered. Becoming whole. Again and again.
I time travel often.
I think many of us do.
All it takes is for us to sit,
they remind us of times of old.
Of people we’ve loved,
lives we’ve lost,
lives we’ve lived.
Sometimes it just takes one note to return us back to a foreign
We are in two places at once.
Two ages at once.
And within two different stories at once- our own story and
the story of the very song we enter into.
The choruses reverberate into our being. When we listen, that part of ourselves we thought went missing, is found.
I’m driving, listening, and slowly singing along.
My voice grows stronger.
At the bridge, I break.
I sing it all out.
The song and me are one.
The Bridge carries me through.
The song feels different now, yet it heals me all the same.
I time travel with it. It travels time with me.
Listening to Elvis brings to mind my grandma
as a young girl, swooning over the King
as a girlfriend, sharing this on a date
as a teacher, wishing for the weekend
as a mother, feeling nostalgia and contentment
as a grandmother, listening to Suspicious Minds fifty times over
on the karaoke machine she purchased us for Christmas
listening to Elvis reminds me of my grandma
the glue that held my family together
whose presence is missed
whose resemblance I have
and my mother has
“He died when my dad was real young.”
We were sitting at the breakfast table, leaning back in those rolly chairs.
“So, you never had a grandfather, did you Paw Paw?”
“No I sure didn’t. So I wanted to make sure I was the grandpa I never had”
He was the grandpa he never had a chance to remember; the grandpa I always will.
I remember when he and grandmama lived in the basement. I would run downstairs and he’d serve me some milk in a glass mug with Goofy’s face on it. I remember the portable toilet pan that sat next to grandmama’s bed. She’d been in a chair since my mama was a teenager, but I just remember her to be in that bed. She always wore a nightgown, and I would call her boo-ti-ful. I could never pronounce the word quite right.
I remember when I first learned all Paw Paw had done to serve her. He vowed, “In sickness and in health”. You don’t ever think your partner will be sick for over thirty years. You don’t ever think that the one you build a house with will soon be unable to walk around in it, dance in the kitchen, and clean up the messes the children make. You don’t ever think that you’d have to be the one to take your daughters dress shopping and school shopping because their mother can’t leave the house. You don’t ever think that sickness would actually take over that beautiful health. But maybe Paw Paw did. He vowed to love and cherish my grandmama, “in sickness and in health”, and that he did until the day she died.
Paw Paw’s remarried now. Has been for 20 years, to beautiful grandma Myrtle. She’s 91 and he’s just shy of it. They both can get around, but he can get around a good bit better than her. So here he is again, serving his wife in all the ways he can.
Paw Paw gets up from the breakfast table and starts cleaning up the kitchen. Still sitting in my rolly chair, I look at him and say, “Thank you for cleaning paw paw. You’re always cleaning aren’t you?”
He looks at me and says, “The one who can do more, should do more. Always”. As the words left his mouth a big ole smile appeared on his face, then he turned around back towards the sink. I stood still for a moment letting those words register in my head.
The one who can do more, should do more. Always.
I’m breathless. At 90 years old, he still chooses to serve the other and refuses to find an excuse not to. Oh God, help me remember that.
He does so with a smile, not letting bitterness or pity rob him of the joy he’s been given. The joy that comes from laying down your life, your wants, your plans. Oh God, help me remember that.
I’m about to say some vows of my own. When I say the words, “In sickness and in health”, I’ll look at my love and I’ll think of Paw Paw and remember the depths they carry. I’ll remember, cause I can’t forget, and I don’t want to.
How do you mourn someone you’re not sure you really knew?
But it’s someone you’ve seen consistently your whole life?
And your being came from hers a generation removed
And she was a person
But you’ve treated her as a static figure in the story of your own life
And the people who knew her when she was younger talk about her strength, her will, and the way she enjoyed theatre
And her younger summers living on a lake
And her older summers on a different lake
And her years raising three boys born in four years without the financial means I get to enjoy
So how do I grieve when my memories are about me in her presence and not her as a woman
A woman I never really knew and became interested in all too late
So now I grieve memories never made or passed down,
Memories lost, you could say
But I carry who I know she was
The woman who passed down through my dad to me
Remembrance of her is in my bones
Mary Hathaway Busby
It’s a curious thing
To notice the way light pours into each room
That a few steps away
She and I could feel different emotions
Depth and darkness
Not whimsy and light
Because the windows of our rooms see different shadows
We don’t have to feel like strangers,
If we only could brush hands
Through the walls that separate us
It’s Ironic that Your Name Means Wisdom
I’m looking at an old orange VW bus. I took a picture next to it one time. I liked the idea of it being mine. Even though it wasn’t. I created this persona of a guy that drives one – no matter how impractical it was. He can’t drive that to college. He can’t afford that.
But that’s what you are to me. A made-up memory. Something I created. Something I took too far when you weren’t on the same page. Like the van, I ran off into my own head and created a world where it made sense for us to be together. I thought maybe it was my own efforts that led us to our bitter end, but you reassure me it was all on your end. There was just something between the two of us that wouldn’t work for you.
You and the van. The ways I falsely remember you are deceiving. I leave out all the bad details – I tend to do that anyway. I’m a painter but only in pastels. Black and gray and the darker shades I fail to acknowledge.
Damn my optimism. It keeps me from remembering you in a true way. The way that you dissolved my mental health with the ways you ignored me. You deprived me in every imaginable way. Because you weren’t realistic. But I let myself fall in love with the way you like Elvis and the way you call me to show me pictures of Lake Tahoe, and I forget about all the times you pushed me away and never opened up to me.
You and the orange VW bus serve as great reminders that sometimes things are nice when I can be less involved. Because I don’t have to maintain you or understand you or think of you realistically. The way I remember you could never be honest. You’re great for me. You’re terrible for me. Ebb and flow, wax and wane, you leave me anyway. And that finale is all I have to remember you by.
Everytime I call you you answer the phone like you are expecting me to be someone else. “Hello?” “hey” “hey.”
I don’t get that because I know damn well that the picture of my head in your lap pops up on your phone every time. Do you not remember my face?
There are plenty of things I would like to unremember about you. The purple red yellow imprint of heat that comes off of you while you sleep. The weight of you leaning into my back. Vials of tears and cast iron skillets and a life I walked around inside of like a blind man in the fog. There was never a life there.
BY BILLY COLLINS
Just as in the horror movies
when someone discovers that the phone calls
are coming from inside the house
so too, I realized
that our tender overlapping
has been taking place only inside me.
All that sweetness, the love and desire—
it’s just been me dialing myself
then following the ringing to another room
to find no one on the line,
well, sometimes a little breathing
but more often than not, nothing.
To think that all this time—
which would include the boat rides,
the airport embraces, and all the drinks—
it’s been only me and the two telephones,
the one on the wall in the kitchen
and the extension in the darkened guest room upstairs.
And now I am stuck remembering a future that never happened. Why do I remember running to the grocery store in the middle of the night to fulfill pregnancy ice cream cravings when we never even really officially dated? Why do I keep reaching to twirl a wedding ring? The general public never saw me hold your hand
Option 1: selective brain reduction surgery, theoretically painless, and I will remember no more. I won’t remember the hurt and the loss. I won’t remember having had you ever in the first place.
Option 2: What we just move on from each other? We just move on and outgrow what we had? We just become new people with new lives? We just miss each other ?
I’ve stared at this page for about an hour
I’ve typed things and backspaced them
I’ve written out the hundreds of memories that flood my brain
All I’ve come to realize from it is that remembering is painful
Right now it hurts to remember
To paint images in my mind of moments that used to feel so precious knowing that it will be some time before I can recreate those experiences feels obsolete
And to watch others have those moments right now, as if nothing was happening in the world, creates an obscure feeling within me I don’t quite have the words for yet
Maybe one day when it’s all over I’ll be able to remember the concerts and the parties and the days when the more was the merrier
But for now I cannot call to mind the things I cannot have
Call it selfish, sensitive, naive
I don’t care I will not be remembering until further notice
I will keep my mind where my feet are
One day at a time
(TR warning with car accident)
“Can you tell us what happened?”
“What’s your name?”
“Where were you going?”
“Do you remember-“
I’ve been asked that question a lot since my accident. In the immediate aftermath, it was questions about who I was and could I remember basic things about my life and where I was going. Later on in the ambulance, it was questions about my job and why I was in Athens. And in the ER, it was questions about where did it hurt and the most important of all – “Were you wearing your seatbelt?”
I don’t think I’d ever been in shock before, but looking back, I know that’s what it was. For a moment, all I remembered were headlights. I remembered my name and where I was driving. I gave my ID to someone, and someone else sat next to me and kept talking to me to keep me calm. Every time they asked if I was wearing a seatbelt, I said, “Yes” or “I think so”.
It wasn’t until later in my ER bed, neck still in a brace, dried blood caked on my face, in my nose, and all through my hair, and glass shards in every bit of skin I could feel that it was confirmed. I hadn’t been wearing a seatbelt. A rude police officer handed me my citation while I was immobile in my bed, and after he left I sobbed.
The nurse said he didn’t have to be so mean like that and I called myself stupid and she said “you’re alive and everybody else is too – it’s okay”.
Over the next few days, I started to remember more. I remembered coming to in the passenger seat – my head against the passenger window and my legs in the driver seat where I had started. I remembered realizing that I had been in an accident and hearing my mom’s voice on the other side of the phone call we had been on. I remembered scooting back over and realizing I didn’t have my seatbelt on. I remembered picking up my phone and telling my mom I had been in an accident and I was bleeding. I remembered some kind guy helping me out of my car and over to the grass – assuring me the other car’s passengers were okay and just being there as a calm presence. But as for the accident itself, I still only remember headlights.
Even as I think back on it now, it makes me throat constrict when I remember I didn’t have my seatbelt on. I had been in the car for 30 seconds and just hadn’t clicked it in yet. I’m so embarrassed. So ashamed. So worried that people in my life think I was being intentionally reckless – that I was trying to hurt myself.
I remember times when I drove around with no seatbelt on just for that reason, and I sob again.
I remember times when I planned out car accidents that would hurt no one but myself. And now realizing how sick I must have been to think that doing that would only hurt me.
My life didn’t flash before my eyes. I didn’t realize my reason for living or my purpose. I only feel ashamed and embarrassed. I get pitied and chastised and told that I was lucky to survive. Some days I feel lucky. Some days I don’t.
I know this event will be something I remember for the rest of my life. Near death experiences tend to do that supposedly. I still don’t know how I’ll remember it though. I hope one day it won’t be through the lens of shame and self-pity. That’s the thing about remembering. We can choose how to remember. We can choose what to do with our memory – how to frame it. We can choose to slowly pick the shards of glass out, to breathe through the pain, to choose gratitude.
I’ve seen glimpses of that.
I remember holding my nephew in my arms three days after my accident. Three days after the doctor told me I was lucky to be alive let alone be able to walk. One day after a surgeon repaired my broken neck.
He had been born in the early hours of Thursday and I had almost died several hours later. I remember being so grateful to have met him. For the first time since the ER, I cried. His birthday was almost my last day. I whispered to him, “You’ll be the best of us.”
I hold on to that moment. Maybe one day I’ll remember the hope he brings more than the shame I caused.
Thrust trust in those gaping wounds of pain.
Jab healing in the scars of blame.
Seal it tight with the soothing sound of rain.
Stand against the slicing hurt of shame.
Maybe just sit a while.
Perhaps just air and time will do.
Remove the many voices that aren’t coming from within.
Go ahead and allow the trust to run through your grin.
Get used to it, because It won’t be the last time you know pain.
Let go of the blame.
There is no reason for shame.
Give yourself grace.
There is nothing wrong with taking up space.
Remember, in the midst of the madness, Heal.
No one ever told me
That I too would carry
Of my grandfather’s absence
That the trauma
My mom experienced
Would also be mine
I never knew
No one ever told me
That would string me along
Make me believe
That somehow, I was responsible
For every birthday missed
Every cigarette smoked
Just because the cycle is broken
Doesn’t mean the grief disappears
I never knew
December 31, 2020: “Remembering Redemption”
Remember: a two-edged sword. My heart didn’t want to write on this word because it brings up pain, a melancholy hurt, a wish-things-never-got-so-bad ache. When I told my dad this issue, he challenged me to think of the positive aspects of remember: remembering all that God has done. I felt a bit ashamed. Why is it that the positive aspects of memories are not the easiest nor the first aspects that we cling to? Our culture drenches us in the cruelty of comparison: a lens we use to consider our past.
But God. God redeems everything, even the word “remember.” I don’t have to fear the word or the idea of going back into my memories. There are scars there, waves of insults, candy-wrapped lies, disillusioned dreams, broken pieces of metal, betrayal, the kind of brokenness that separates childhood from adulthood, but God. I can wrap myself up in the negativity of my memories, or, I can give it up. I can stop traveling down memory lane with the lens of being a victim. Instead, I can walk down the sidewalks of sin and remember: God was with me. I can re-imagine that world of loneliness with a sense of certainty: God was in it all. Unlike the men, boys, friends, and seasons of freedom– He stayed when things got difficult. He stayed and he painted rainbows of redemption on walls of my most painful memories.
I don’t have to travel back into the land of my childhood and look at a little girl, walking alone through it all. I can look at a little girl whose hand is held by the King of Kings. Whether she felt that hand or not is irrelevant because truth, although easily deniable, does not fade with our whims.
There is a challenge in reflecting on my past: will I comfort myself in wearing the old coat of disappointment? Will I lay down and let the pain wash over me with no clear end in sight? Will I endlessly indulge on self-pity? Will I sit in my sorrow and regret, hating the holes dug in my soul? Will I stare at my memories and only see the cocoon?
Or will I shed the comforting covers and embrace my hope of Christ?
Will I stand up and put one foot in front of the other?
Will I allow myself to be humbled, unshackling myself from the tangles of pity?
Will I ask God to fill up this deep hole with His well water?
Will I thank God that He is preparing me for the ultimate flight?
We are to be afraid of nothing and no one- not even the memory of something or someone. So I’m giving up my memories. I’m releasing them to the ultimate author.
I’m remembering redemption.
This is for you and your children and their children after them.
The ones who will see pictures from old holidays
days on the mountain — young mom, “grandad!”
the wedding, where they’ll ask about the girl that’s standing in the back.
“Well – I can’t remember her name…” you say, quivered lips, as you sit with the ones that matter.
And maybe, just maybe, late that night, you ponder the thought “What matters?”
Things unseen —
Do you remember sitting on the rooftop while the clothes fluttered in the wind and the flowers listened to you fight?
Do you remember the painting that hung in Beth’s office above the shelf, up and to the right? The soft air swirling in from outside. How the birds danced behind your small child self hiding in yesterday’s time.
Do you remember dancing clumsily in his arms, bodies dipping gracefully nearby, wondering if he’ll notice you’re rhythmless? Wondering months later if it was rhythmlessness.
Do you remember sitting on your bed, bawling from the bottom of an empty belly? Do you remember begging her to explain why people bring children into this dark and twisted hell?
Do you remember catching the shadow of your angry body burned red against hendershot’s hallway walls? The feeling deep in your bones – grasping for satisfaction in the empty insults that you hurled at the phone.
Do you remember spinning and screaming for help and wondering what heaven will be like?
Hear, my children. The Lord your God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. When you stand on the rooftop and dance rhythmlessly all through the night. When you give everything you have in full to one, because you understand unconditional. When it sinks in your body – skin to muscle to bone, and you feel magic move in your belly. When you make love on the bed and wonder about children and long for a heart from your blood. When you tell her she’s safe, forever at home, and when heaven won’t let go. Do not forget the Lord your God who rescued you from hell of mind and from the feeling of broken bones. Be careful not to forget the Lord your God, the author of this pain and this beauty and this life. Remember, oh child, in things unseen – here’s where your hope belongs. Remember oh child, remember what matters – praise Him as Lord of your life.
My Denim Jacket:
I wrap myself up in my Denim Jacket
It feels –
It smells –
Like something I once knew.
Today is the first day of fall.
I’ve been waiting for this day for quite some time now.
For the day when leaves begin to gently fall
Not all at once,
Perhaps just one falls today,
Even that would be okay.
For the day when the breeze is just slightly crisper than it has been –
Not too crisp,
But just right.
I’ve been waiting to wrap myself up in my Denim Jacket again.
So much has changed since this time last year
Some things will never be the same
I wonder if I’ll ever be okay with that.
I’ve seen loss
My Denim Jacket
Has seen it all with me
I’ve also seen courage
My Denim Jacket
Remembers these things well
So much has changed since this time last year
Some things will never be the same
I’m learning to be okay with that.
Some days it’s hard for me to remember
But today I’ll wrap myself up in my Denim Jacket
And perhaps through that embrace
I’ll begin to remember again
Day by day
Step by step
Minute by minute
The gift of wonder, my eyes still see
I won’t let that light burn out inside of me
The world is bright, and magical too,
21 yet, I still see the beauty, won’t you?
I don’t want to lose it, no I won’t, I refuse.
let’s not get the reason he’s a creator confused.
I won’t grow old to the way the sunrises and sets
no I won’t lose the magic of the ground getting wet
for it’s not just water on the concrete you see
it’s puddles of jumping and nourishment for me
The world is wonder, each day a new page
I won’t lock it up like a bird in a cage
for what God has created is meant to be enjoyed
let’s soak in his creation, don’t let it go void.