Remember My Son

August 20, 2007 | 24 comments

I read a lot of Abraham Lincoln books. I can’t say enough good about him, but I have to admit that, like his law partner said, “his ambition was a little engine that never quit.” Some historians have argued that the key to his ambition was his undeniable fear of being forgotten, his fear that after his death the world would be as if he had never been. That is why he tried so hard to make a name.

One of the hardest parts about my daughter’s death is how quickly she’s been forgotten and ceased to matter. Sure, once in a while a Kristine Haglund Harris will write us a note saying that she’s been on her mind. But most days even I don’t think about her anymore. It tears me up. When she died I knew this would happen, but it still tears me up. Every post I’ve done about her was a raw attempt to make her to matter to you, and to remind me that she mattered to me, never mind the post’s gospel veneer.

This was all in the background of my mind yesterday during the sacrament when I thought about the deal God was offering us. Salvation and forgiveness are yours, He seemed to be saying, if you’ll only remember my son.

24 Responses to Remember My Son

  1. Adam Greenwood on August 20, 2007 at 7:39 am

    I will remove your comments that want to debate Lincoln.

    If you disagree with the point of my post, you do not need to defend yourself about my daughter or reassure me in that regard: though forgetting the dead is horrible its also natural, inevitable, and perhaps even right that she go slipping out of our minds somewhat while this mortal life lasts; and that’s not the point of the post in any case.

    Finally, please do not take the view that I am saying that God is full of grief and that this is the sole reason for the sacrament. Thinking about God as a grieving father brought home to me how little He asks and how much He offers.

  2. Kathryn Lynard Soper on August 20, 2007 at 8:40 am

    Adam, thank you. As my unruly mind wandered during the Sacrament yesterday, I suddenly became aware of what I was doing, and was taken aback by how easily I forget. After all he has done for me.

  3. Ardis Parshall on August 20, 2007 at 9:59 am

    One of my motivations for writing about unknown people in church history (or Utah history, for other venues) is the very deliberate pleasure in speaking their names again and somehow signaling that they haven’t been forgotten here. You’ve made a nice tie-in for me, Adam, to the even greater remembering. Thanks.

  4. Edje on August 20, 2007 at 11:54 am

    This reminds me, tangentially, of Anna Akhmatova’s “Requiem” and her ways of remembering those she knew and those she lost in the Soviet terrors: “I’d like to name them all by name…”

  5. Matt W. on August 20, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    We have a dear friend who’s wife recently passed away, and we have discussed multiple times the pain caused by the guilt of no longer feeling the pain of loss.

  6. Patricia Karamesines on August 20, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    FWIW, when I think “Adam Greenwood,” I simultaneously think, “Father of Betsey Pearl.”

  7. Kaimi Wenger on August 20, 2007 at 1:39 pm


    I spoke to my kids about Betsey when you posted about her. And later, a few times.

    Every once in a while, one of them says something to me out of the blue, about “the little girl who was sick and died.”

  8. TMD on August 20, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    There have been time when I’ve wondered why HF would make a system in which proxy ordinance work is needed. My speculation has come down in a similar place–that there’s something important about everyone, regardless of how humble, having their name whispered, remembered (if perhaps poorly pronounced) sometime after their body fails.

  9. Adam Greenwood on August 20, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    That’s wonderful, TMD.

  10. Kristine on August 20, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    Oh, Adam. That is painful wisdom–thank you for offering it.

  11. S.P. Bailey on August 20, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    Yes, TMD. I appreciate that the little blue cards have not only names but dates and places. Helps me picture that individual as present with me for a few brief hours in some form or another.

  12. Bookslinger on August 20, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    I think what you describe is akin to (but not exactly) Survivor’s Guilt. Survivor’s Guilt is one of the commonest threads running among the Vietnam Veterans with whom I have associated over the past decade. It is a common theme or spirit among those who join Vietnam Veterans associations, clubs, etc, and go to reunions, commemorations and the like.

    There are three or four 1/2 size and 1/3 size replicas of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, known as “The Moving Wall.” These are very reverent shrines when they are on display as part of Veterans’ reunions, Memorial Day observances, and 4th of July celebrations.

    One Sunday, a few years before I came back to church, I listened to a talk/sermon by a preacher given at a memorial service at a local Wall exhibit. My spiritual eyes were opened to a degree and I saw/perceived the spirits of many dead soldiers having their own reunion in the big grassy field on the opposite side of the wall from the bleacher seats.

    To put it simply and bluntly, they were having a good time. They were happy. Their sorrows and sufferings were over. The only thing I think that grieved them was the sorrow/pity that the surviving veterans had for them, and the needless suffering that the surviving veterans put themselves through. They didn’t want to be grieved over. Their (the spirits’) pain was gone. And if they could have said something to the surviving veterans, it would have been “don’t grieve for us, you’re the ones who are still living in a world of physical pain, suffering, and hardship. You’ve got it worse than we do.”

    Your post harkens back to a recent one by Kaimi, about how the Celestial Kingdom will likely be populated mostly by those who died in childhood.

    The dead have more reason to grieve or worry for us than us for them. It’s our test that is still in progress. Our passage through the vale of tears and sorrow is still in full swing.

  13. Ray on August 20, 2007 at 6:12 pm

    Adam (and TMD),

    I had a wonderful experience in the temple last year, where I was performing baptisms with youth from our ward. I was in the middle of a group of ten, when I saw only a first name on the screen. As I pronounced the baptismal prayer, I heard a voice inside my head say, more clearly than I had ever heard such a voice, “Now, finally, she is known by name.”

    I teared up in the font, and I teared up again reading your post and subsequent comment. Thank you.

  14. danithew on August 20, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    That’s a pretty cool post Adam. I like the personal insight you provide in how God must feel about his Son.

  15. danithew on August 20, 2007 at 6:44 pm

    Just as a note (feel free to delete this admin, once the message is across).

    Does Times and Seasons have a bug in its comments? Or does it somehow clash with Firefox?

    When I post a comment, there isn’t a transition (anymore) that brings me back to the post or to the T&S homepage. Something odd with that – and it’s been that way for awhile.

  16. Jack on August 20, 2007 at 10:27 pm

    I haven’t figured out how to “remember” without it knocking the psychological wind out of me. Our pop-religion approach to the Savior–being drowned in the tears of an all-loving Jesus–makes the whole proposition of joining up with him incredibly coercive. I mean, you have to be a real jerk not to.

  17. Adam Greenwood on August 21, 2007 at 11:27 am

    I mean, you have to be a real jerk not to.


    Our pop-religion approach to the Savior–being drowned in the tears of an all-loving Jesus–makes the whole proposition of joining up with him incredibly coercive.

    If its any consolation, a non-pop conception of Jesus, one that takes into account his wrath and vengeance, is even more coercive.

    Your only freedom is your choice of masters.

  18. Jack on August 21, 2007 at 10:02 pm

    Is there any faith in coercion?

  19. Adam Greenwood on August 21, 2007 at 11:31 pm

    You have to believe in the all-lovin’ Jesus before you drown in his tears, isn’t that so? And the Lord’s vengeance is certain but slow in coming.

  20. JanetGW on August 22, 2007 at 3:56 pm

    Adam, I don’t know if this is obnoxious or not, but in the past few years I’ve taken to using Jesus’ name more frequently than his titles exactly because while those title explain who he is in relation to me, I just liked knowing his name. And I thought his mother would want people to use it :).

    I’m sorry about your daughter–I don’t get over here enough to know the story, but I lost a brother a long time ago and have watched my mom deal with the vacillating pain between forgetfulness and remembrance for years. Because both of us were born a trimester early, I’ve felt guilty most of my life that I lived and he didn’t.

  21. Sheri Lynn on August 28, 2007 at 4:33 pm

    Perhaps your daughter is now enjoying the blessings of being on that side of the veil, and occasionally stops to realize that she isn’t missing you as much as she feels she should, but it is probably much easier to remember how short the separation will be, from that perspective. At least, I hope it is that way.

  22. Sean on August 29, 2007 at 4:23 pm

    This was very touching to me, Adam, on many levels: how important it is to remember the things that are important; how beautiful and innocent children are; and how simple but not easy it is to remember the Savior day to day. Thanks.

  23. John Mansfield on August 29, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    I doubt that Brother Greenwood’s daughter will be completely forgotten any sooner than the rest of us. Two of my mother’s nine sisters died before I was born, one of the youngest from an infection in childhood, and one of the oldest from accidental injury shortly after she married. I think of them several times a year, about as often as I think of their sisters, my aunts.

  24. Barb on October 22, 2007 at 10:15 am

    This post is such an important reminder to center our lives on Jesus Christ and the atonement. I do not think on Jesus Christ and the atonement in the manner that I should or that I feel I once enjoyed. I hope that I can regain that deep inside feeling that I had in regards to the Divinity of Jesus Christ that I gained on my mission and retained for sometime afterwards. I think about religion and topics constantly but do not dwell with gratitude as I should on the atonement as often as I should.

    Although I may not always post comments, I do think about your dear daughter that you lost and I do not need you to reprint your story for such recollections. I also rememeber Stephen M.’s little one’s and have gotten to know them more with reading their stories again in additional years. My friend Mary A.’s little ones are also in my heart. I read a blog recently where a mother felt so saddened that everyone reflects on the loss of lives in a national catastrophy but did not know her sweet little ones that she lost. I have not had a chance really to know about them as she only said that without telling about them in that post. I may read archives and past posts to learn more of them.

    I recall your answer posed to a question by Matt about how many children you would be willing to have before deciding to have zero. You said infinite. All your children are so blessed to have such a father! And as families we can progress forever in the eternities. That is hard to imagine or phathom. I think of a brief reunion with loved ones who past on before of the older generations and seeing that from time to time without thinking of the ramifications fully of our relationships growing and progessing in the hereafter if we keep our covenants and live worthy.

    God be with you.


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