My mother was born on September 11th, 1937. And for most of her life, it was a beautiful day for a birthday.
You know how it’s easier to remember events that have an emotional attachment to them? This is called explicit memory and this “emotional memory” seems especially evident in people who suffer from dementia — or maybe it’s just more noticeable, because most everything else is forgotten.
For example, my parents witnessed a tornado barrel through my mom’s hometown in 2010. That event had such an emotional impact on my mother, that she talked about it for a couple of years afterwards to anyone who would listen.
Similarly, you probably remember where you were when you learned that planes had hit the World Trade Center. I was in my home, and when the first building went down, I was on my knees. Like so many, this day and these images are burned in our memories to stay.
Mom remembered this day too and she knew that her happy day was also a sad day. With teary-eyes and her hand over her mouth, mom felt the sadness and knew that her day didn’t belong to just her anymore. She couldn’t articulate specifics, but she didn’t forget the enormity of the day, even as her Alzheimer’s progressed.
Emotional memories stay long after other memories go.
We slow down on September 11th to remember and pay tribute to the lives lost on this tragic day in 2001. We will never forget. But on this day that was once an ordinary autumn day with birthdays and falling leaves, I will also honor my mother by finding the happy, and by remembering all that is good in the world. My mother would like that.
Happy birthday mom — it’s a beautiful day.