Our Amazing Ability to Forget

In the Name of the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful Beloved Lord

I have always marveled at the ability of human beings - in the midst of terrible tragedy - to find a way to smile and even laugh. I see this time and again in the ICU: despite the fact that a loved one just passed away, grieving loved ones are able to smile and find joy, if only for a moment. I saw this with my own self after the death of my daughter 4 years ago.

Despite the terrible pain of her loss, I was still able to laugh with my friends and family...if only for a moment. But, it was a great relief from the horrific pain and torture of having to bury my first-born baby and angel. This stems from the nature of human beings to forget.

In Arabic, the word for human being is insan, and it comes from the root word that means " to forget." Humanity frequently forgets what happens in the past. Now, many times, this is a distinct disadvantage: "Those who forget the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them," as it is commonly said.

Yet, many times, this is a mercy as well. If I am constantly reminded of the horror of the loss of my daughter, I would be paralyzed with grief, unable to move forward even one inch. Yet, thank God, I am not paralyzed.

I have a life to live; a family for which to care; a job which I need to perform. I am not paralyzed by my grief because my nature as a human being causes me to forget, if only for a short while, the terrible grief of her loss.

Indeed, I am frequently reminded that my daughter is gone, and the sadness - always just under the surface - wells up and crushes my heart with pain. But then, again, it wanes, allowing me to move on with my life and do the things I need to do. It is truly a mercy from the Beloved Lord.

That is why we, on Memorial Day, can pause to remember the great sacrifice of those in uniform who, in the past and present, bravely and honorably fight and serve to defend our country and - at the same time - enjoy a great day with family and friends. If it wasn't in our nature to forget the grief of the loss of our soldiers, Memorial Day would be only a day of sadness and grief, which - fortunately - it is not.

This tendency to forget presents a great challenge: not to completely forget the important things of the past. I frequently try to listen to my late daughter's favorite songs, or look at her pictures, or do something to remind me of her, even though it causes me so much pain. I don't know why I do it, really, but I think it is so that I don't completely forget her.

Now, we as a human beings should never forget the mistakes of the past, so that we do not make them again. We should never forget the horror of the Holocaust, so that we do not perpetrate one again. We should never forget the mass internment of Japanese-Americans, so that we do not do it again. We should never forget the horror of the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, so that we do not do it again.

Yet, many times, we do forget the acute pain of the present - like the pain of losing everything in an EF5 tornado in Oklahoma, so that we can move on, rebuild, and keep going as a people and a civilization. Within its limits, it is a tremendous gift and blessing from God.

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