Will You Remember Me? by Michael Peterson
Graduation is a highlight for faculty and students alike. With it comes a mix of emotions. Happiness and joy for the success and achievement, and sadness and melancholy that our paths may never cross again. In the back of our mind is often the question, “Will you remember me?” Having had thousands of students cross the stage and receive their diploma over the course of my academic career, I honestly have to say that I will not remember most if not all of them. My graduate students who worked most closely with me I remember best, but even after a decade or two, their faces and names begin to blur and recede into the recesses of my mind.
A couple of years ago my Father passed away. Despite decades of connection, conversation, and correspondence the details of him as a father, husband, preacher, manager and scientist begin to fade. Sure, the photos of him around the house provide some comfort, but ultimately with the passage of time his presence and essence move from reality to memories to passing thoughts.
I was flipping through YouTube and came across a short film entitled, “We will all be forgotten.” Depressing to say the least, but accurate. As the years and decades pass, all those people we knew and know pass away and successive generations have no knowledge of their existence. We often experience this feeling when flipping through family photo albums. There is your great uncle Adam. Or this is your great grandfather Michael. They are merely a black and white, low pixelated face on a piece of paper. I never knew them. I don’t know their personality, quips, laughs, struggles, contributions, love, or favorite foods, colors, or hobbies. They are nothing to me, other than a now deceased relative.
This can all be very depressing from a materialistic, humanistic perspective. We live, we die, and then we are forgotten. We become as if we never were. Some people try to create a legacy—something that will keep them in our memory. But is it they, as an individual, we remember, or the contribution that we remember? Legacies just seem to fall short in the memory department. I don’t remember you. I may remember that one thing you did. Or that building you donated enough money to build that your name is etched on its side. But it is just a name, it is not you. With time, it is just another name, faceless, unknown, and irrelevant. As Solomon states in Ecclesiastes—life is futile.
Yet, God knows us very differently. He knows every hair on our head. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He counts us as his children for all eternity. He loves us not just in this physical life. He knows and loves us now and forever. He will never forget us. His desire and passion are to always be with us.
Our physical life is not meant to be the pinnacle of our existence. Our purpose for being is not to make a great name for ourselves in this life. Because this life is transitory, temporary, and fleeting. God has so much more in store for us that our eyes, ears and minds cannot even comprehend it. He wants us to embrace His reality, His being. In doing so, we will never be forgotten.
So, when my students walk across that stage in their pomp and pageantry, I know that I will soon forget them and they me. Yet, I take solace in the fact that God knows each of us, and desires that we are forever remembered.