Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.

Psalm 90:12 NLT

Good memories produce feelings of warmth and happiness, but those memories become painful when grieving the loss of a loved one. We long for the relationship to be restored, but it can never be. Sometimes the pain is paralyzing, making it difficult to move forward.

When Jasmine was in hospice, I began planning her memorial service from my laptop in her hospital room. I felt conflicted because she was still breathing, but I knew her passing was only a matter of time. Part of the planning included a video to honor her life. I sifted through every digital photo stored on my computer. After she passed, my daughter and I went through every photo album (remember those?). Some brought warm feelings and put a smile on my face; others brought tears—from our wedding to vacations, mission trips, raising our children to adulthood, marrying them off, and becoming grandparents.

The process was agonizing, but through it, God was restoring my soul by pushing me forward. Some pictures were faded and creased, and I found ticket stubs and brochures she kept from our vacations. Jasmine would take a rock from a new location as a memento, and I found her box of rocks with the names of the places we visited. Occasionally, I would pause and face reality, “This will never be again,” but I will always cherish the memories.

We looked forward to upcoming celebrations like the next granddaughter’s birthday, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Japanese festivals in Fort Worth. We anticipated sharing the experiences of seeing our granddaughters graduate from high school and get married or take that trip to Israel we had always dreamed of. Those hopes and dreams of sharing them together vaporized like a mist.

A verse in the Bible says, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14b ESV). Moses prayed, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom” (Psalm 90:12, NLT). I wish I had been wiser. I wish I had not been presumptive and taken life for granted. I would have valued time more; I would have valued Jasmine more; I would have valued time with Jasmine more.

To move on would be discounting the memories by leaving them behind, but to move forward is to cherish them and carry them with us. We miss our loved ones. Even when we heal, a scar on the heart will always be there. But if we live surrendered to God, He redeems everything that happens. Reflecting upon the memories brings more than smiles and tears. Shared experiences, good and challenging times, shaped who we have become and who we will be moving forward.

Life is short. Don’t take it for granted. Cherish the memories. Amid the happy memories may be painful ones. Embrace them even if it hurts. They have been part of shaping who you are. Carry them with you. That is part of healing. Be wise and live to make a difference in the lives of others. Make your life count for something that outlives you. Move forward.

(Adapted from a chapter in the book by Morris Isara, What Now, God?, available on Amazon)