“Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” – Isaiah 49:14-18
I remember the first time my grandmother was not able to recognize me. I was in high school at the time. The look on her face revealed that she had no idea who had just walked into her room. “It’s me, Grandmother. It’s Martin.” The expression on her face—if one could call it that—did not change.
When my father died quite suddenly, we went to tell my grandmother the news, news that she was not able to comprehend. In a sense, dementia saved her from grief, so there was some comfort in that. Yet, still, her only child had died and it seemed unspeakably sad that she could not remember him, or recognize his name, or mark the loss. The prophet, Isaiah, asked, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb?” In the case of my grandmother, the answer would have to be, “Yes.” But then, Isaiah follows those words with these words of God’s own assurance, “Even these will forget, yet I will not forget you.”
Our memories are so much a part of who we are that it can be hard to imagine who we would be without them. But we are more than our memories. As God loves the infant who does not yet have any memories, God holds the person at the other end of life whose memories have deserted her. In the end, what is most important, what ensures our personhood, is that we are remembered by God.
You see, we are so much more than what we remember. We are what God remembers.
God, thank you for the promise that you will never forget me—that, indeed, you have inscribed me and those I love on the palms of your hands. Amen.
Martin B. Copenhaver is the President of Andover Newton Theological School, Newton Centre, Massachusetts. His most recent book is Jesus is the Question: The 307 Questions Jesus Asked and the 3 He Answered.