Our relationships are in a state of change all the time. When we're with someone we learn more about each other and grow together as friends. When we're far apart from someone, our relationship changes, too. It can grow colder and distant, or it can be just distant. Sometimes we have such powerful friendships that time and distance do not destroy the relationship; when we see each other again we know that the love there hasn't died one bit.
But we have no guarantees of that. We can't be certain that the friends we have now will still be our friends in the future.
In leaving friends behind, I ask, "Will they remember me five years from now? Will it be a fond memory or just a recollection of who I am and what we did together?" No one likes to be forgotten. We all want - and hope - that we have made a significant (and hopefully good) impact in others' lives and that somehow the memory of who we are will continue.
I can't help but think of a couple of scenes from the gospels that illustrate this. The woman who anoints Jesus in Mark's gospel (14:3-9) is honored for all eternity because the story will be told in memory of her (though, sadly and ironically, her name is forgotten). And one of the thieves asks Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom (Luke 23:42).
"Remember me!" the thief cries to us down all these centuries. His cry rings in our ears because we want the same thing. We want to be remembered. We want stories told about us when we die: stories of the funny, stupid things we did that made others laugh; stories of the good things we'd done to help others; stories of our failures and how God's grace was present (or absent) in those times. We want our stories to be told again and again to the glory of God. And we want our dear friends to remember us because we remember them. When we love others we can't help but hope that they love us, too.
That's probably why Jesus wanted us to celebrate supper with him, the bread and wine in memory of him. It's one of the reasons we give things to others when we part: we hope that the little token will remind them of us and hopefully call up good and pleasant memories.
Each Sunday in the Eucharist we communally remember Jesus in what is called the anamnesis, the "not-forgetting." We tell the story of God's work in Jesus. We recall his life, death, resurrection and ascension so that we and generations to come might hear the story of salvation and sanctification. We want Jesus' story to be told again and again so that we might remember God's mighty acts in history and hope for God's mighty acts in our lives and the world.
In all our desire to be remembered, though, we have to realize that God remembers, too. God does not forget our friendships, joys and failures. All of these are, in a way, eternal in the sight of God. We live on in God for that reason alone because our story does not die with us but will live on forever.