Anamnesis: remembering that makes present.

We use it to talk about the Eucharistic prayer, which moves us back through Christ’s Last Supper, his offering of self, body and blood. His invitation to community. His death. It brings us to that table. It makes the time of two thousand years collapse.

Anamnesis: remembering that makes present.

Sense memories that move you back into a moment long gone, and yet not gone at all. And yet startlingly not gone.

It happened in the car some days back. An old song came on, and I was driving with my boys on a bright autumn afternoon. And then, too, riding passenger next to my dad through the Adirondack Mountains the summer I turned twenty-one. I was a present daughter to my dad who is gone, and a mother to my boys who weren’t here. Driver and passenger. Young and nearly twice as much life behind me. Expectant and just this broken. It wasn’t a memory. Two light qualities at once. Different air. I felt weak after. My dad was dead again.

Leonard Cohen is dead now too, and Donald Trump will be president. Our babies are angelic and bright and so little of their story is written. I miss my wife as though there’s a hole clean through me. That slate-eyed creature, my fellow journeyman. My once fellow journeyman.

I recall us. Remembering that makes present. Anamnesis isn’t always a gift.

I move back through this space looking for clues. Six years of our story. I search that twenty-one year old daughter. I can’t save her from feeling this one day. I can give her these boys, but she’ll have to parent them in the world. She can have them, but so will the world.

I have never before understood how dangerous hope is. Like walking a rope held taut between twin towers.

Cohen’s last offering was this. It feels like a portent. John Brown’s body, as Melville showed it to us: Hanging from the beam. I don’t know what happens when we kill the flame. I don’t know what happens.





5 thoughts on “anamnesis

  1. I am sorry for being gone for so long, and that I missed your posts from the last few months by inattention. Your writing is so very beautiful and your call to ministry so clear. From one called person to another, “blessings”. This work is no.joke. My heart is sad for your loss, and astounded by your bravery. Thank you for telling the story so that the boys can hear it. Thank you for telling the story so that we can hear it. Knowing I’m not the only one in the mess is like exhaling. This work is no.joke. I like to imagine that if we lived near each other we would be friends. I’m always in search of fellow travelers who speak the theological language I do. The Sunday after the election I sobbed through the closing hymn. One of the older gay men in the congregation hugged me, and told me “we lived through Reagan – the man who couldn’t say “AIDS” when all of my friends were dying around me – we will live through this.” My elder called that evening, and again the next night when I didn’t answer the phone the first time. I have never felt so loved by a community, and so called to justice. My mother told me this morning that she knew that my sister and I were “radical liberals”, but she was shocked to find out that my brother is too. I told her she shouldn’t be surprised – we learned it at church. Church is the place where Z sees racial integration, hears about social justice, and meets families that look like his. The media tells us we don’t exist, but they are wrong. This work is no.joke.

  2. Oh, I get this word. I first came across “anamnesis” while reading Madeleine L’Engle’s nonfiction book, The Irrational Season. (And this is how the first poem in Watershed ended up with that title.)

    More directly, though, sending you hugs for the largeness of it all, and the ache.

  3. I don’t know what happens either, but know that there are people out there who hear you, who ache with you, and who hold your family in their thoughts and prayers.

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