My mother called early Sunday morning. Her oldest living brother, Willard Martin, died Saturday night. He was 96 years old. His wife, Freda, died several years ago.

When I was a child, we lived a hundred miles from Uncle Willard. Today that is no trip at all. Then it was a long, tedious trip over curvy, two-lane mountain roads passing though many small towns. While we lived only a hundred miles from most of our Nashville, Tennessee, relatives, we did not spend much time with them.

When I was five, I was sick much of the time. Dad moved our family fifty miles from his job to change climates. Five days a week he rode or drove a hundred miles round trip to work and back. Understandably, on weekends he rarely wanted to drive a hundred miles in the opposite direction to visit. Only occasionally did we take trips to Nashville.

Occasionally Uncle Willard and Aunt Freda would visit us on a weekend. My brother and I joyfully anticipated his visits. He serviced vending machines, and he always brought us a whole box of Heath Bars. He also, almost always, took us fishing. Probably because of those fishing trips, I called him Uncle Wormy. I still can hear him laugh, and still hear him say, "Boys, what you need to do is ..."

Memory is a peculiar thing. Often I struggle to recall the details of what happened a month ago. Yet, I easily recall fishing spots we visited fifty years ago. Memories of "then" stick to my mind as if they were made of velcro, but memories of "now" often slide away on skis coated with teflon.

Memory is a powerful force in life. It can refresh us with images that renew our hearts. It can torment us with images that refuse to disappear. It can demand honesty, or it can encourage deception. It can use our yesterdays to bring hope to our todays, or it can use our yesterdays to bring doubt to our todays. It can be all embracing, or it can be highly selective. It can focus only on the good or the bad, or it can accept the good and bad.

How fortunate are people who have memories created by those who loved! How fortunate is everyone who has a past ruled by a loving God! Never forget your present interactions are building someone's memories. Never forget that if you have a "now" ruled by a loving God, in the future you will have a "past" ruled by a loving God.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 24 March 2002

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