“May his memory be eternal” is the traditional Byzantine prayer for the dead. It’s the parallel to the Latin prayer, “Eternal rest, O Lord, grant unto him, and let perpetual light shine upon him.” In these prayers for the dead we are really at the heart of life.
We ask that there be memory: indeed an everlasting one. Perhaps only such memory is really memory in the full sense. To remember, in the richest sense, is to hold close to one’s heart. Permanently. It seems to me that this lends great meaning to the words written by Isaiah: “Even if a mother could forget, I will never forget you.”
To never be forgotten, ever, is an astounding thing. It makes me want to become a man who remembers. We too can remember; and our memory too can in a sense give life to people.
Every Ash Wednesday, Christians are exhorted to remember something about ourselves: who we are, and where our life is tending. It is something to remember all year long. My remembering is something I can offer not only to myself, but to those around me. I can remember who they were and who, we pray, they are now.
It will take practice, self-discipline, and sacrifice. I will need to begin by setting aside things that hinder memory. I can learn to remember, just as I also want to be remembered.
John Cuddeback is professor of philosophy at Christendom College. He is the author of True Friendship: Where Virtue Becomes Happiness and has written for Nova et Vetera, The Thomist, and The Review of Metaphysics. He lives with his wife and six children on a farm where they raise heritage breed pigs. “I Want to Remember the Dead” is adapted from his website Bacon From Acorns.