OPINION: I will not forget!

Spiritual Matters with Reverend Chris Sparks

THE eucalypt was huge, though otherwise quite unremarkable. Except for one thing.

I was strolling through Clinch's Pond Park at Moorebank in Sydney's southwest on my way back from a walk to the Liverpool CBD for coffee while the Grafton High hockey teams were battling it out on the nearby hockey fields.

It was a lovely park, located on the edge of an industrialised area fronting Heathcote Road. The tiny well-tended oasis also supported the Gloria Taylor Memorial Flora and Fauna Reserve. I drank in the tranquillity as I sat on a park bench near the water's edge watching water birds aimlessly paddling around under a clear blue sky. And that was when I noticed the tree, for my eye had caught a glimpse of something unusual. From a distance, it looked like a photograph stuck on the trunk. So I walked over to check it out. Walking around to the far side of the tree I was amazed to see an orderly array of more than 60 photographs and cards nailed to the trunk of that majestic gum tree. There were photos of cute babies, beautiful children, teenagers, young adults and older people - individuals, couples and family groups. In short, a typical cross-section of society. There were few words to identify the faces, but the universal message conveyed by a handful of cards was simple: 'Missing you'. For me, the story is incomplete; a mystery. But to the relatives and friends of those whose pictures graced that tree in that beautiful setting, it's perfectly clear: They are driven to remember loved ones and desperate to find a meaningful outlet for their grief and sorrow.

When a group of 4-8 year-olds were asked to share their thoughts about love, 8-year-old Jessica wrote: "You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget." We must never forget that we are loved and cherished. But it's equally as important to remember that we need to tell our loved ones how much they mean to us, often! Jessica is right. We should be diligent in expressing how much we love rather than just assuming our loved ones already know! In the same exercise, Billy, who was just four, said: "When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth." That's awesome! And it's spot on. Just so true! I frequently hear the name of Jesus used in ways that are intensely disrespectful and hurtful. In the mouths of so many, the name and memory of the most loving person to ever walk this earth is just not safe!

Love creates and safeguards memories that are uniquely and intensely personal. That memory tree in the small park in Sydney prompted me to evaluate how I safeguard the memories of my own loved ones. It also caused me to recall the question God posed in the scriptures through the prophet Isaiah: "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast?" He then answers the question by saying: "Though she may forget, I will not forget you!"

And that's so good to know!

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