Memory is a powerful thing. Sometimes people say I can forgive but never forget. At other times, things seem to slip away and much of our past gets forgotten. Memories can bring a smile to you or they can cause you to weep. If you are from my generation, you can remember the day Kennedy was assinated and what you were doing at the time. You can probably still see in your mind, that young man in his early forties saying “ask not what the country can do for you, but what you can do for the country.” To test your memory even more, can you remember whom the presidential candidate was that Sargent Shriver ran with for the Vice Presidential nomination? For those who don’t know, it was George McGovern.
Shriver did many things from the Peace Corps to the Special Olympics. It all centered around a world of action, not cheap talk or empty promises. I always remember his smile, the enthusiasm in his voice that made him a motivational force. In later years and most recently, I have seen him as an old man. He still has some remains of his good looks, if you can look great at 96.
I am told he died of Alzheimer’s, unable to identify even his own children. Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease which sends chills up my own spine. How you can lose your memory and forget people in your life like your own wife or children makes me sad. I can only imagine how tough it is on family members. But if you are Sargent Shriver and can’t remember the tremendous life of public service, I can only say it’s tragic.
I grew up in a very conservative, Lutheran environment. Every day in school we had to recite from memory, versus of the bible. I chaffed under these assignments. Never the less, I can still recite passages from memory and of course recognize a lot more because of all of those memory work assignments.
In the end, when Sargent Shriver couldn’t remember his family or close friends or even his life, he could still say the Lord’s Prayer word for word. Perhaps when our time is up in old age and we have been divested of most of our dignity, surrounded by caregivers, we can hold on to the words of the only prayer that Jesus taught his disciples.