I sat in an office recently sharing stories of my parents, focused on the last decade of their lives. Each of us had experienced or were experiencing being with parents who were making the decisions (or not) and taking the actions (or not) that would allow them to live life as fully as possible. Our stories included the successes and failures of those plans of our parents and if I listened well enough, a few hopes and fears for our own impending approach to those "gentler" years.
Sitting there, I was reminded of a statement made recently on a radio show. A First Nations author from the north (Fort Smith NWT, I think) responded to a question from the host by saying, "our stories have medicine." At the time, I don't think I gave that a second thought, but something about my sharing of stories about my Mom and Dad brought that phrase back to mind. And suddenly, I knew what that man meant when he said that our stories have medicine.
He was speaking of the power that exists when we remember and speak of those we love. In fact, you can substitute any emotion for that...love, hate, fear...when those emotions are involved in our stories about others, there is power in the telling. Those stories can motivate us, move us, scare us, humiliate us, enlighten us, educate us, humour us; in short, those stories of our lives with others make us fully human. Telling a story of my Dad's gentle struggle with Alzheimer's Disease refreshed his memory in my mind. It made me think not just of those years when his personality and presence slowly eroded like ice crystals blown from a drift; I also remember him when he was strong and hardy, a man who loved to dance all night long with his wife, a man who tipped his hat when a met an acquaintance on the street. Is that what we mean when we say, "in life after death", in the New Creed? How can he be gone when stories bring him so strongly to mind?
That First Nations author was right: our stories have medicine. Our stories have power; they are like magic in their capacity to bring us to life. But I think the secret is in the telling and the sharing. If you want to feel the thrumming energy of a story, you need to be sitting where you can see the story teller's face, see their eyes, the expression on their face, hear the emotion in their voice. Our stories have medicine that can touch our souls and hearts like no photo ever will.
"I thank my God for you every time I think of you;" Philippians 1:3