One of the poignant moments of our travels happened during a visit to my husband’s aunt in South Carolina. I think it was for his father, her brother’s funeral. As we were giving hugs and goodbye kisses, she said, “Don’t y’all forget about us.”
I’d never heard that as a parting request before. And yet more than 20 years later, it still echoes in my soul.
I learned through study of the southern traditions that this was said by those left behind when friends and relatives ventured north for freedom and even later, for relocation for education and jobs. A keepsake from the African notion of being tied to each other for eternity, this request demanded remembrance as an exercise to keep the bond alive. Remembering in the heart and mind is so much more than recapturing an event or a story. It is actually placing oneself again in the vibrant and organic relationship with those to whom one is bound. Even after death. Because death is merely life after life on the African continuum.
Even now this statement shakes me to the core because of the pull I always feel to remember the names of the children, the Black males especially, the folks who are slaughtered on our urban streets as if their lives don’t matter. I make a conscious effort to remember. It was easier, of course, in the early days when those deaths were still shocking and so few and far between. Tiffany Smith on Poplar Grove Street in Baltimore. There’s a silhouette of her on the street sign that bears her name. Three-year old James Edward Smith III who was having his first hair cut. We coined the phrase, “drive-by shootings.” So much easier when the shootings were few. Now the names roll in so quickly from all over the country that I have to stop and consider the conditions of their death in order to place them in my collection that’s growing too heavy for my heart and mind to bear.
Don’t y’all forget about us. Everyone wants to be remembered, to have been significant in someone’s life. And the remembering gives us completion even in the pain. When Jesus instructed the disciples to remember him, he linked it to something they would do on a regular basis – the breaking of bread. So simple. Every time you break bread, every time you pass the cup, remember me. Remember my love. Remember my teaching. Remember the sacrifice I’m about to make on your behalf.
And in return, when we bow at his feet in worship or in request for intercession from his seat at the right hand of the Father, we moan the same theme we’ve heard down through the years, from our grandfathers and grandmothers, from our aunts and uncles, from our neighbors and fellow worshippers:
Remember me. Remember me. Oh Lord, remember me. As if he could ever forget us. As if anything could snatch us from those nail scarred hands.
Oh Lord, remember me.