There were several of us sitting around a crackling fire, fresh into the new year. We had just enjoyed a southern meal of ham, cornbread and collard greens. A friend had recently celebrated her 70th birthday and posed this question: what is your best memory? Lots of memories flashed through my mind. What finally settled was the moment right after my son was born. I remembered looking into his clear eyes and feeling the birthing room with its beeping machines and busy nurses drop away. I knew this person and he knew me. And while I didn’t realize it until nearly twenty years later sitting in my friend’s living room, that moment of bone-deep recognition has helped to sustain me through the ups and downs of mothering a strong, independent child.
Sharon’s question continued to roll around in my head over the next few days until finally another memory settled into view. This one bore the stamp of family legend. I was a senior in high school. We were playing the championship game of our regionals basketball tournament. The score was tied, most of the good players had fouled out, and we were down to just a few seconds on the clock when it happened. I got the ball and time stopped. For a moment, I knew with absolute certainty that if I took the shot, it would go in. Swish. So, of course, I took it. Swish. The crowd went wild and we won the tournament. What I didn’t know until later was that everyone in our crowded gymnasium, especially my coach and teammates, was yelling at me not to shoot. It was a long shot from the side, and ordinarily, I would never have attempted it, much less made it. The best part of the memory wasn’t making the shot or winning the game. Honestly, those things didn’t enter my mind. No, the best part of the memory was the moment that I simply knew.
Those startling moments of clarity, of connection to something beyond ourselves, can come upon us without warning and feel so familiar that we may not even recognize them for what they are. Moments of grace.
I’ve been working with a 14-year old boy suffering from panic attacks. The first one came upon him during an extremely hot and stressful baseball game. Since then, panic suddenly and unexpectedly overwhelms him, while he’s at the zoo, in church, walking into school or playing sports. I had him on my massage table, helping him to relax and release the anxiety held in his body, when I asked him to think of his best memory playing baseball. Even before he spoke the words, I could feel his breathing deepen and his whole body come alive. He told a similar story to mine. He was pitching a close championship game when he suddenly knew that his next pitch would fly true. And it did. And his team won. Like with me, the best part of the memory wasn’t winning the game and being the hero. It was the moment before when he could feel the ball in his hand and the rightness of his connection to it. When re-lived, his best memories, like mine, renew our connection to source and restore faith in ourselves.