Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Lest We Forget

Several months ago, I left to pick up Sam from the bus stop
in the midst of making dinner.
It's always a bit of a frenzy at that time of night as I try to juggle
making dinner,
teaching piano lessons to my boys,
having friends over to play (or boys going to friends' houses),
tidying up the house,
setting the table,
helping with homework and/or music theory,
supervising after-school chores,
having kids wanting to help make dinner (or not wanting to, but being forced to help on their assigned night),
and then, in the midst of it all, loading up the kids to pick up Sam.
I'm often pretty frazzled and my mind is going a zillion directions at once.

I was just pulling into the parking lot a couple of miles from our house, where he was waiting, when I had the horrible realization that I had left a pan of chicken cooking on the stove at home.
A nasty, dark pit formed instantly in my stomach and tension immediately filled my jaw and forehead as Sam got into the car and we hurried home as quickly as I could reasonably go, praying all the way and gratefully zooming through green lights.
I sprinted into the house upon our arrival to find, thankfully, no fire, but a destroyed frying pan, a melted spatula, and some blackened chicken.

I retreated into our bedroom for a while before getting the rest of dinner on the table,
trying to work through the horrible feeling of realizing how much I had put in danger because I simply forgot.
It's one of my worst fears, as a mother.
As a child, I remember having vivid nightmares about my younger siblings dying or being put in great danger because of something that was my fault.
I dread unintentionally doing something that will cause harm to another--especially my family.
But forgetting is a behavior that seems to be less directly in my control.
How do I stop forgetting things?
How can I possibly cover all my bases?

A few nights ago, I was on my way to pick up Sam again,
and I suddenly realized that I had no clear memory of turning off the stove before we left home, where I had been in the middle of making Thai Curry.
Was it still on??
In light of the previous situation, I began to panic inside.
I instantly called Sam and told him that we were going to turn around and go check,
and I raced home, my heart beating like crazy while I once again prayed all the way.
Again, I sprinted inside when we arrived and, to my relief, discovered that this time the stove was off.
My forgetting again caused Sam to be waiting for us for a good 30 minutes,
and Talmage would need to skip dinner and go straight to Scouts as a result.
(Minor inconveniences when compared with the house burning down, but still...)

I was anxious and skittish when I told Talmage we would need to go straight to Scouts and asked if he had his shoes.
He didn't and I was less than perfectly patient about it in my moment of anxiety.
"You guys really need to remember to always bring a pair of shoes when we get in the car!" I said. "You've got to remember!"
And then came a not-so-gentle nudge from within that pointed out the irony that I had just prayed for divine intervention the whole way home because I had forgotten,
and yet here I was, scolding my son because he had likewise forgotten.
What if I had left the stove on?
What if the reason it was off when I arrived home was because of divine intervention?

I felt like the biblical unmerciful servant in Jesus' oft-quoted parable, who begged for forgiveness for his own massive debt and then turned around and refused to forgive another of the paltry amount he owed.
The experience was a sermon that burned itself into my being,
and I have found myself being far more patient with my boys' shortcomings since that night.

As far as forgetting goes, there is one scripture that brings me great comfort:
"Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee."
(Isaiah 49:15)
We may forget.
But Christ never does, and He is there to pay the price and make up the difference in our forgetting as we turn to Him.
He has "graven [us] upon the palms of [His] hands, and [our] walls are continually before [Him]."
He is right there beside me as I mother, from moments of burning chicken to moments of far greater eternal impact.
And for that, I am eternally grateful.


P.S.-A family friend nearly died when she delivered her 4th baby, and she eloquently shared the following thoughts about forgetting:

After almost a week in a coma, I began to regain consciousness. I felt very calm for those first few hours. At one point, I remember my dad began to ask me questions. I couldn’t talk, but could kind of nod to communicate.

“Do you own a business?” he asked. I nodded yes.
“Are you a primary president?” I nodded yes.
“Are you remodeling your house?” I nodded yes, and allegedly flashed a look that said, “ could I possibly forget THAT crazy part of my life.

But then he asked, “Do you have a new baby?”

Baby. My heart sank at that word. I don’t remember a baby. I remember lots of things about myself. I recognize the faces of the family members in the room. But I don’t remember a baby.

Fear and shame began to creep into my peaceful state of consciousness. If I do have a baby, I should love this baby. I should be with this baby. Why do I feel a sense of fear and panic every time I think about this baby?

Brian, with the loving pride of a new parent, asked if I wanted to see a picture of our baby. I told him no. I saw him turn away to hide his tears.
My mom didn’t ask...she just put the phone or printed pictures in my line of sight and chattered on about how sweet and perfect he was. If I had been able to use my hands, I would have pushed the pictures away.
They brought the baby into my room one time for a few minutes while I was in the ICU, but I couldn’t move my arms enough to hold him. It took a lot of time and recovery before I was able to be pushed in a wheelchair down to the NICU to really hold my sweet little baby. And when I did, those feelings of fear and panic all melted away into the deep love, fascination, and quiet gratitude that I remember so well from the births of our other 3 children, and which was deepened by my long separation from this beautiful baby.
Later, as I reflected on this experience, a scripture from the book of Isaiah came into my mind.
“Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?”
Elder Jeffery R. Holland referenced it when he said,
“When Isaiah, speaking messianically, wanted to convey Jehovah’s love, he invoked the image of a mother’s devotion. “Can a woman forget her sucking child?” he asks. How absurd, he implies though not as absurd as thinking Christ will ever forget us.”
It is absurd to think that a mother could forget her child, but I did just that. Because of the trauma, sedation medications, and a week in a coma, I did the unthinkable: I forgot my child.
But there is a line in this scripture that wraps me in a warmth and understanding. After asking that question, can a mother forget her child, it says:
“Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee, O house of Israel. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.”
That phrase, “Yea, they may forget” seemed to have been written just for me. I was that strange anomaly who had done something as unthinkable as forgetting my own baby. And yet I am saved by a love even deeper and more powerful than that innate love between mother and child.
Maybe in the spirit of Father’s day and with mothers day not too long past, we can all find comfort in the phrase “yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee”. Mothers may forget. Fathers may forget. Parents may forget. Children may forget. We all periodically suffer from forgetting to be kind, forgetting to be patient, forgetting to do all the things that we know we should
Perhaps we may even forget our divine heritage and get lost in this confusing world for a time. Yet we are not forgotten by Him who bore the the trauma that engraved us all on His hands.


  1. Thank you, Kaitlyn. This is a beautiful reminder.

  2. Not to derail the point here, but have you thought of putting a checklist (for you and the kids) on the garage door? Before you get in the car quickly run through the checklist (can include things like "do you have shoes?" and "is the oven off?"). I don't love checklists myself but I just read a book called "The Checklist Manifesto" and it almost made a believer out of me. :)


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