In the memory of love, love endures.
As I look back upon nearly 30 years together, the many places life has taken us, and the opportunities to experience living and loving that we have been afforded, my wife and I recognize now that remembrance has built, layer upon layer, a structurally sustaining foundation upon which we continually rely. Remembering serves as a regenerating plan for our relationship and a blueprint to the memories we continue to design and create. Our remembrance resupplies and builds the future architecture of our relationship.
Several years ago, Robyn and I traveled throughout Europe in the wintertime. Moving from Budapest to Vienna, onward through Germany, and afterward ending in Prague, we included among our many long-sought ventures a visit to the awaiting romance of Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany’s Bavarian Alps. We spent many hours dreaming of experiencing its lofty position where pointed turrets own the perspective of heaven while remaining unflinchingly grounded on what seems a single parapet of foundation. Boldly, its alabaster frame perches amongst the enveloping backdrop of the snowcapped mountains.
The dreamy parade of horse-drawn carriages carried us toward the château in the sky. However, we confronted one small snag to our starry-eyed vision. Evidently, we had picked a dreadful winter day to celebrate our romance amongst the clouds. Did I mention clouds? Oh, we had clouds, but not a castle. The enveloping billows had settled, masked, screened, veiled, even barricaded from view the entire edifice elevated before us.
While awaiting our entrance hour to visit the interior of the mystically missing castle, Robyn chased breaks in the thick mists, optimistically taking every photographic opportunity to prove at least that we had been there. I stood still and forlorn as I stared into gray nothingness, realizing we had traveled all that way only to discover that the woeful inversion had polluted and spoiled every ounce of romanticism (and our photographs) forevermore. Unendingly, my remembrance of what should be or what would be memorable forever maddened my thoughts and made me lament the journey.
Through the heavy mist, I noticed an older gentleman sitting intentionally isolated from the great scurry of people and their cameras. His bearded appearance captured my imagery of the quintessential German Father Christmas, Weihnachtsmann, rounded in all the right places with a delightfully peaceful countenance and disposition to match. As an art lover, my attention spurred as he busily arranged a bevy of artistic wares on the wooden bench. Because of his craft and countenance, I felt curiously drawn to approach him. He received me warmly, welcoming me with excellent English diction and inviting me to enter his solitary realm.
Soon, I recognized this gentle man to be an artist who worked tirelessly without fanfare in almost unrecognized silence to render the splendor of the mysterious, colorful castle in mediums of watercolor, pen, and ink. From numerous viewpoints upon numerous papers, his talent had illustrated the very castle of love that I came seeking but could not see. Because of his unpretentious nature, I didn’t know if this perceptive artist peddled his wares for a living or if he drew and painted for enjoyment. However, the why’s and how’s of his purpose somehow didn’t matter at that moment. For me, this man exemplified such profound, reflective gratefulness that it motivated his art to capture the lingering love in the castle’s many aspects and colors.
My unrequited need to see the castle straightway met his necessity—neither of money nor recognition but of interaction and relation. Beyond cultures and traditions, instantly, we became connected. In our conversation, we shared commonalities with our family situations. Both of us had been married for many years to women of great grace, charm, and loveliness. Both of us delighted in being the father of six children. Upon hearing this news, the gracious man arose and embraced me in friendship.
Remarkably, the fetters of a blinding blindfold untied themselves, and I could see. I could see the very thing I had come seeking—not the castle, but a keen perspective in viewing love. I conjured the courage to ask him if I might purchase one of his paintings. I looked among the lot, selected a few that thoughtfully captured my experience, and paid him for them. Upon my departure, he paused, perused his paintings, and chose to bestow one as a gift for me as a remembrance of that cherished day.
Intriguingly, the clouds began to part and disperse. A cheer and applause rose from the crowd. Minutes later, the weather altered and enabled Robyn and me to see the celebrated Schloss Neuschwanstein of the Bavarian Alps. Yet, somehow, it was less impressive than the castle we were really permitted to see. For that day, through the caring love of another, we caught a glimpse with a real vision of the castle of our love that together we build majestically in the sky. In the memory of love, love endures.
Cherishing love’s souvenirs.
Remembering is the greatest manifestation of loving, for to remember is to love.
In French, branded a “language of love,” the verb se souvenir means “to remember.” Ironically, being reflexive, the French connotation suggests that every action has a returning action. Whatever experiences or individuals give to us induces an imprint in our minds and heart that may return to us. Like a great boomerang, the same attitudes and actions that we send forth come back to us again.
The wise adage “That which we sow, we shall also reap” encourages us to choose to plant seeds of kindness, patience, compassion, hope, and more that will germinate and grow in our hearts and minds to create the ultimate blooms of love. For as we willingly and bravely plant these seeds of potential love, we must always remember that we receive that love in return.
In English, remember means literally to “bring back”—further suggesting that we each have a responsibility to discover and then carry with us in return tokens of what we desire to recall.
Both languages share the noun “souvenir.” Have we not all gathered souvenirs—those memorable objects we discover, pick up, and even purchase to carry them back with us? These simple, treasured mementos enable us to recall times, places, people, and events bearing sentimental significance. By design, they stir or restore our cherished emotions. In the acquisition of souvenirs, we desire to hold on to and never to let go of—to remember.
Remembering refines our loving.
The humble painting, offered by a stranger who became an immediate friend in a faraway land, stands as a souvenir, even a remembrance in lessons of love. Thankfully, this dear artistic traveler, providentially placed, reminded me that to remember is really to love. The more we remember, the more remembering refines our loving.
Some people may want to say that remembering only conjures souvenirs of sadness. To quote C. S. Lewis, may I remind each of us that the consciousness of “the pain now is part of the happiness then.” To forget is to lose the education of love. We should never waste what we have gained from even the most painful lessons of loving.
“Grief is the last act of love we have to give to those we loved.
Where there is deep grief, there was great love.”
Dr. Seuss taught us, “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”
When we embrace remembering in love, we let it lift us. We become grateful that we know how to recognize love, to feel it, and to share it. With Alfred Lord Tennyson, we exclaim that we are better for having learned love than “never to have loved at all.”
To remember is to love. Remembering refines our ability to love and permits our love to endure.
By R. Shannon Mock
Photography by Robyn J. Mock
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