By Bob Hulteen
His name was Hailu Degaga.
A black, snaking bicycle cable secures a ghost bike to a stop sign kitty corner from my house. It’s where the 73-year-old Mr. Degaga was the casualty of a car-bicycle accident a year ago on July 7, only blocks from his apartment.
A young woman, perhaps his grand-daughter, with some regularity tends to this memorial. She brings fresh flowers, and tidies up around the white, spray-painted bike, as well as the similarly white cross that stands next to a yellow “Please Slow Down” sign facing 26th Avenue.
“What we choose to remember will help to define us.”
My daughter Korla cut a bouquet of yellow and purple perennials from our backyard on the anniversary of Mr. Degaga’s death. A year ago, Korla was aware that I was leaving the house on my bike at about the same time that she heard that an older man was killed on a bicycle on our corner. Perhaps the experience of concern for my welfare adds to her commitment to remember the life of Mr. Degaga.
Or perhaps it’s just her pastoral spirit as a follower of Jesus. Remembering is what we do!
THE EUCHARISTIC PRAYER is a recitation of the story of our common faith — liberation, release, reconciliation, compassion, hope. It shouldn’t be surprising that the Christian movement is grounded on our recollection of God’s faithfulness. Our desire to remember is so thoroughly human.
And, what we choose to remember will help to define us. For instance, if our primary recollection of Moses are him bringing stone tablets down from a fiery mountaintop experience, maybe we emphasize the law; if it’s his leading a band of captive foreigners through a miraculously forgiving river, maybe it’s liberation.
Humanity found safety in an ark, a future even when it looks barren, freedom in a march, sustenance through trusting, a spy in an opposing court bringing protection, a birth in a foreign land, life abundant in death. We recite some version of these words each week as hear the Word preached and the sacraments celebrated.
“Our memories construct a litany for our lives.”
What do we remember – from our own experience or from the stories of the community? If we remembered Philando Castile on the recent third anniversary of his murder, it will change our perspective, our angle of vision, on the world. If we remember the life of the young Michael Brown on August 9, five years after his unnecessary death at the hands of a St. Louis police officer, we will be affected by that life lost, yet remembered. It was true 2,000 years ago; it is still true today.
Our memories construct a litany for our lives. We identify with the stories we remember and tell.
I pray that our choice of memories may most closely remind us of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, who brings release to the captive, recovery of sight to the blind.