Memories in a Box Written by: John Trent,

After we fade into the distance, our children will have the pictures we’ve left behind. Dad, you’d be captivated – and learn something – by reading a great children’s book. It’s called The Memory Box (Whitman), written by Mary Bahr and illustrated by David Cunningham. It’s a great-tugging story that communicates a clear challenge for every father.

The book tells about a boy’s relationship with his grandfather, captured during a summer vacation at his grandparents’ cabin. The grandfather has just learned he has Alzheimer’s disease, and he wants to make sure important memories won’t be forgotten.

“It was your Great-Gram who told me about the Memory Box,” Gramps says. It’s a special box that stores family tales and traditions. An old person and a young person fill the box together. That way, no matter what happens to the old person, the memories are saved forever.”

For the rest of the grandson’s vacation, you can imagine what happens. Every fishing trip, they not only catch fish, they also snag a small memento or picture that lands in their Memory Box. On the day they picked blueberries, another reminder was tossed into the box. Grandpa also found some old pictures to put in the box – pictures of his grandson at his second birthday party, a shot of Gram in her wedding dress, even one of Gramps in his football uniform…back when he had hair!

As the summer progressed, so did the Alzheimer’s. The grandfather began to forget things and get lost in the woods. Finally, it was time for the boy to return home. “As the car hit the top of the hill,” the boy says, “I watched Gramps slowly disappear into the horizon. And I hugged my Memory Box.”

One day your child and mine will see us fade into the distance through age or illness. Like that boy, what they’ll have to hold on to are the pictures we’ve left behind. Remember the shirt you were wearing when you played catch the other day? You might not remember, but a child will – plus what you said and how you looked at him.

Writer Robert Fulghum put it this way: “Don’t’ worry that your children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”

Children perceive life in concrete terms, so they watch and remember, storing away pictures. The abstract concepts of the gospel – love, atonement, repentance, reconciliation – become concrete as kids observe your life, one picture at a time.

What does your child see in the life you’re living? Does he recall the way you looked at him with disapproval when he spilled his milk at dinner again? Or is it a picture of you sliding with her on a sled? Are there plenty of pictures of you kissing your wife, praising you mother, or keeping your promise to be there to see them receive their award?

Regardless of your child’s age, I challenge you to do something new this summer – make your own Memory Box. With your child, fill you Memory Box with tiny treasure and snapshots of times you have spent together. Leaving behind positive pictures can bring comfort and encouragement long after we’re gone.

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