“I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but you have a tumor on your brain. If we don’t remove it, you’ll die.”
“The tumor is located on the part of your brain which stores memory. If we remove it, you’ll lose all your experiences. Your relationships. You’ll remember nothing about your life.”
I stared mutely at the doctor, groping for which piece of information to process first. My children, gone? My husband, my parents, gone? My childhood? “But . . . Doctor. Surely there’s something you can do. This can’t be happening.”
The white-coated gentleman leaned back in his chair. “There is a new technology which may work for you. We can store up to ten human memories on a chip, and after the surgery, we can reinsert the memories into your brain. No more than ten, you understand. Your brain can handle only one of these chips. Any more than that will kill you.”
I went from silence to hysteria in a matter of seconds. “No!” I sobbed. “This can’t be happening to me!”
“Honey, wake up!” The doctor shook me. “Renae, wake up!” I opened my eyes to find my husband staring at me. I looked around my bedroom, reality slowly soaking through like water in a sponge.
“That was some dream you were having. You okay?”
“Yeah.” I watched as he settled back under the covers. “I’ll tell you about it in the morning.”
I didn’t sleep much the rest of the night. I couldn’t help but ask myself, Which memories would I keep? Which would I throw away? These questions tumbled through my mind as I sorted through the file cabinet of my life. Slowly, I began to realize that along with the tragedy of that situation would come a tremendous gift. What if I could actually throw away all the junk of my life? All the pain, hurt, betrayal . . . gone! What if every bad memory could disappear, and only the most worthy ones remained?
As I sorted through my memoirs, I sadly realized that much of my life was simply not worth remembering. Where did it go? What happened to all the years, days, hours, minutes? It was easy to find the bad memories. I chose to toss them out right away. But the good memories—the really fantastic ones—I just couldn’t find very many.
Suddenly I regretted more than ever the wasted time. The time when no memory was formed; instead, time just passed. I thought of the hours of television viewing, and the time spent worrying over things that never came to be. Why hadn’t I spent more time creating lovely memories? Why, when given the opportunity to choose my favorites, did I have so few to choose from?
Here, in random order, are a few that made it to my Top Ten list:
That hot August day when I met my husband Rick for the first time. He was adorable in his ball cap and devil-may-care grin. May 12, 1997 – the birth of my daughter, Charis. God allowed me to have a part in giving life to an angel. I’ll never forget the joy of holding her in my arms for the first time. Standing in the courtroom, finalizing the adoption of my son, Foster. He had been ours since birth, but now it was official! The judge shook my husband’s hand. Charis squealed. Foster, taking his cue from his sister, laughed that great belly laugh of his! Sitting in my mother’s lap in the green rocking chair in the corner of our kitchen. She read to me and sang to me. I felt safe and loved. Riding on Daddy’s shoulder’s at the ballpark, watching my brother Shelby play baseball. I thought I could touch the sky! Falling into the river with Rick. (Long story.) Singing the alto solo in the Fort Hood performance of Handel’s Messiah. I wore a pretty blue dress. Performing that timeless music with that wonderful choir, I remember thinking, This must be a little bit like heaven. Swimming in the cow tank with my friend Stephanie. Picking out a Christmas tree with Daddy. Hitting the after-Christmas sales with Mom. The time, in sixth grade, when Tammi Johnson stood by me when all my other so-called friends were making fun of me. Tammi had been my best friend since first grade. I was not alone. The smell of “Old Spice” cologne. It always reminds me of sitting in Granddaddy’s lap, listening to the tick-tick of his pocket watch. The spotted kitchen floor. (I don’t know why this is one of my favorite memories. Some things just don’t make sense!) Age four, lying in the backyard on a sunny day, enjoying the breeze and feeling God sent it just to tickle my face. Cuddling Charis and Foster in the early morning hours, after they crawled into bed with me. As you can see, I’ve included more than ten. If I had to eliminate four, I suppose I would. But my real life is not a dream. I can keep as many as I choose. And I choose to keep these, and many more. I choose to ignore those things in my past that don’t bring me joy. I choose to wipe out, to the best of my ability, those things that make me feel sad, lonely, betrayed, hurt, confused, rejected, afraid. I choose to focus on the lovely, the pure, the good, the right. And I choose to spend the rest of my days making many, many more lovely experiences—filling not just a chip, but volumes and volumes with those things that are worthy of being remembered.
Renae Brumbaugh Green is a bestselling author and award-winning humor columnist. She lives in Stephenville with her handsome, country-boy husband, nearly-perfect children, and far too many animals. Connect with Renae at www.RenaeBrumbaugh.com.