“I’m sad, my granddaughter lamented earlier this year before the pandemic. She’d been visiting us and was sad that it was time to go home. We’d gone to the playground and a trampoline park, baked a cake, talked, laughed, and hugged. We’d even had doughnuts.
Who wouldn’t be sad when all that had to come to an end? I suggested that my granddaughter think of all the fun memories we had made and keep them in her heart and mind. The memories could replace the sadness.
“What’s a memory?” she asked earnestly. Her question brought me up short. The clinical definition of memory might not mean much to a 6-year-old. I tried to come up with an answer.
What’s a memory? It’s the afghan my mother crocheted for me in my first year of college, a reminder of all her creative acts of love. It’s the smudged cards in my recipe box, reminders of the many women I’ve known who cooked and baked, expressing their care for others. It’s hymns we sing today that remind me of singing next to my father, his tenor voice strong in my ear. It’s my childhood phone number, with a 717-area code.
My simple answer was this
My simple answer to her question was this: Memories are ways we think about things we have done. We can relive the fun, the silliness, and the love as we picture our time together. And we can smile as we remember.
Many of us are sad that we won’t meet this month in Phoenix for our triennial convention and gathering. The churchwide executive board chose to reschedule the two events for the first week of August 2021, for the health and safety of all involved. But we can enjoy the memories of past triennial events.
Remember politician, educator, and author Shirley Chisholm speaking at our first gathering in Anaheim in 1990? Or April Ulring Larson, the first woman elected bishop in the ELCA, speaking in 1993 in Washington, D.C.? Who remembers hearing Rigoberta Menchu, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Guatemalan activist, speak in Minneapolis in 1996? Or perhaps you were inspired by Chris Grumm, then president and CEO of the Women’s Funding Network, in 2002 in Philadelphia.
In San Antonio in 2005, preacher Vashti Murphy McKenzie moved us. In Salt Lake City in 2008, preacher Elizabeth Eaton (then a synod bishop, now the presiding bishop) roused us into a standing ovation. Who can forget the inspiring call to action of Nobel Peace Prize winner and Lutheran peacemaker Leymah Gbowee in 2011 in Spokane?
Episcopal priest and Thistle Farms founder Becca Stevens stirred our hearts in Charlotte in 2014, while author, lawyer, comedian and Baptist pastor Susan Sparks made us laugh. There were so many inspiring speakers in Minneapolis in 2017: Alexia Salvatierra, Kelly Fryer, and Angela Khabeb, to name a few.
Other memories abound
And these are just the memories of our headliners. Other memories abound. A labyrinth walked. A quilt sewn. Tears shared. Lessons learned. Yes, we will miss all these things this week. As I suggested to my granddaughter, keep the memories in your heart and mind. The sadness will be replaced.
We’ll plan on making new memories in 2021! (Visit welcatg.org to register or learn more.)
Linda Post Bushkofsky is executive director of Women of the ELCA. This message first ran as a Grace Notes column in the July/August 2020 issue of Gather magazine. Click on the links to see photos from the events. Feature photo by Jim Veneman from the Tenth Triennial Gathering in Minneapolis.