My cousin, Janis, plagued with epilepsy, felt she had to prove to the world that she was her own woman and in control. She was only a few years older than me, but treated me as her equal, probably because I liked her music. When she stayed with us in La Pryor, Texas, for one hot, sweltering summer, I can remember her driving the whole house crazy with her “Rock and Roll”; I remember that I liked the music but even I had limits. She would lift the arm on our old High-Fidelity record player so that, at the end of each single-song vinyl 45RPM (since no other records were stacked on the post and the arm was up) it would play the same song… over and over and over.

I thought my dad would ban both her and the record player to the chicken barn but his sly defense was to slip in and put on Johnny Horton’s Greatest Hits when she wasn’t looking. Johnny seemingly sang ballads about that Summer’s battles. Somehow, amid all her colorful character, there was always a smile. She had a seizure one afternoon while driving to Uvalde and died in a car accident. I never got to say goodbye. I hope to see her again.

We all have stories in our past that turn a moment into a memory, and change a mood. Most of us are selective with our memories, but it seems the good ones always retain that grain of hope. And, it is this hope that keeps us remembering, which occasionally manifests itself in a slight upturn at the corner of our mouth when our mind reaches back into the foggy history of our life.

We are coming to the end of another year. What will you remember? God has blessed us richly with life and opportunity this past year and we ought to be asking ourselves: what have we done in creating memories? Interestingly enough, it is gratitude that often redeems a memory. It is silly to delude ourselves into believing that the whole year was all good with no sorrows, disappointments or grief, but gratitude can find favor in any memory and entrench an event in a positive context. This kind of remembering allows us a joy in our past but, also, fosters hope for the future.

No one knows what the future will bring (or if we will have one, James 4:14); only God knows. However, “This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). Making good memories is about living right today, which weaves together a sense of God’s grace with our conscience gratitude to produce a past worth remembering.

Jeff Sweeten