The above poem is on a plaque hanging on the wall of our son’s room. I came across it last year after his death, and it reminded me that just because he is out of our sight doesn’t mean he no longer exists. Our memories of him are everywhere just like “fingerprints”, and so are the memories of everything we experience and hold dear in this life whether they are people, places or things.
We took a drive down some back roads recently where I hadn’t been since before the flood of 2011. So many homes gone and buildings destroyed, yet I’m sure the families that once lived there still cling to the memories of better days; memories of playing in the hay loft of the big red barn that’s no longer standing or flying high on a rope swing into the branches of a huge old tree that was swept away like a matchstick by the rushing flood waters. Some of these families came back and rebuilt their homes, but most moved away, making new memories in places far from the Missouri river banks.
We will soon have a deserted school building in Hamburg where hundreds of young people attended junior high and high school classes over the years. There will be no more sounds of their laughter in the hallways, no more bells ringing to signal the end of another class, and no more songs sung or instruments playing in the third floor music room. The auditorium will no longer host the Music Carnival each year with all it’s games and Bingo in the library, no more plays performed by amateur actors & actresses on the stage trying their wings before they fly off into adulthood, and no sound of basketballs bouncing across the gym floor in P.E. The boys and girls that grew up in these halls will never forget their Junior Prom or the day they were asked out on their first date. They will always remember that one teacher who made them feel special and told them they could do ANYTHING if they just believed they could. How could they possibly forget the best times of their youth? Those memories live in their hearts, leaving fingerprints on their souls, and travel with them throughout their lives. They are not encased in brick and mortar that can be torn down and destroyed. Keep them alive by telling your kids the great stories of your glory days, and help them make those same kind of memories wherever life leads them. We all grieve at the loss of the way things were, just as our parents and grandparents did before us, but let’s live for today, striving to make this a better world for the present and future generations. Memories are like fingerprints, leaving their impression on us until the day we die. No matter what tomorrow holds in store, we can always return to those memories and relive them with our families, friends, and classmates by traveling down the back roads of our minds to a simpler place and time.