1998 was 20 Years Ago by Cantor Mary Rebecca Thomas

I had quite a few conversations last week about time. There was a conversation with my mom about whether or not she or I qualified as “old,” a conversation with a congregant about whether or not 5 years is a lot of time, and two conversations very similar in character, in which we discovered that the recent past is not so recent after all.

First –

“As recently as the 60’s, people were fighting the same social justice issues we are fighting today.”

“The 60s weren’t that recently. It’s 2018. The 1960s were almost 60 years ago. We haven’t made very much progress for 60 years.”

And then –

“Charlotte experienced tremendous growth 20 years ago.”

“It was more recent than that. The growth was in the 90’s.”

“1998 was 20 years ago.”

How do some moments from our past burn brightly in our minds eye, as if they were yesterday, when in fact a significant amount of time has transpired. How can the 1960s seem so recent, when in fact, 1960 was 58 years ago? How on earth was 1998 20 years ago? I’m just not sure.

What I am certain about is that there are moments that bring the fleeting nature of time in to perfect clarity, helping us to hold fast to the need to live, breath, and value our present. Sometimes, an external source helps us see the precious gift of time: an illness, a birth or death, a graduation, a glimpse in the mirror, a sudden developmental leap in a child or a grandchild. For me, the conversations I stumbled upon this week helped to anchor me into awareness.

I remember what I thought and how I behaved in 1998. There are moments of grandeur and moments I would just as soon scrub from the stacks of my mind’s library. I remember the me that I was and the experiences that version of me had. I remember my grandparents. I remember my friends. And, yet, 20 years have gone by.

My son has been alive for five years, one quarter of the time between right now and 1998. In just a moment he will be 20 and I will be 40 years away from those 1998 memories. I am sure that I will find myself in a conversation where I find myself shocked to be 40 years after the fact. That just seems to be how memory works.

Judaism teaches us to hold each and every day as sacred. We are meant to bless and thank and sanctify our day-to-day, as well as the extraordinary moments in our lives. It is how we hold on, for just a moment longer, to this fleeting and beautiful time that we have. May we celebrate our mornings and our evenings, our graduations from preschool to graduate school, our new beginnings and even our moments of loss. L’chayim – to a life fully embraced and meaningfully led.