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Some things you can never forget

It’s funny — strange, weird — how memory works. Or doesn’t.

I have a few very clear memories of some events that took place in my life when I was younger than 3 years old. Although brief, the memories are sharp.

One memory in particular comes to mind. I’m riding my red and white tricycle in front of our house in Burnsville, in Northeast Mississippi. I can see the hard rubber front tire running over bits of gravel and dirt next to the edge of the pavement near our mailbox and can hear the crunch it makes.

The memory is very brief, but so crystal clear.

I have no idea why I remember that.

In contrast, almost every day my wife asks me what I ate for breakfast. Very rarely can I recall what I ate, even though it’s usually been just a couple of hours since the first meal of the day.

I can understand recalling “traumatic” or life-changing events and not being able to remember mundane ones. But there was certainly nothing traumatic about that trike memory.

A “traumatic” memory from my early childhood involves a woman our family knew coming to our front door wearing a Halloween mask. I can see a masked face at the window, my dad on the couch, my brother playing with me on the floor and Mom telling me everything was OK as I stomped my feet and screamed. Then there’s a snippet of the woman sans mask sitting there talking to my parents.

Another “traumatic” memory is one of my dropping the piece of toast with peanut butter on it my mom had just handed me. It landed face down.

Don’t judge. It was a tough memory. No doubt there were tears shed.

I can remember the combination for one of the locks I used on my high school locker — 10 right, 18 left, 32 right. I can remember my phone number from when I lived in New Orleans — 504-256-4673.

But I can’t prove or verify any of those memories. What if I’m remembering the combination or phone number incorrectly? How would I  know? Who would verify that?

Who would care?

I remember bits of Sept. 8 and 9, 1979, with remarkable clarity. The 8th was a Saturday, and I was at the home of one of my best friends, Jeff. I remember I was chasing him around the yard and as we got to the gate in the fence around their backyard pool, Jeff whirled to face me and said, “You know you’re not going to heaven just because your parents are, right?”

Then he spun around and ran off. Stunned, I just stood there. What an underhanded way to win at tag.

But his words stung and I began to consider the sacrifice of Jesus like I never had before. Every question I had asked my parents or teachers about salvation and God’s mercy and grace flooded my thoughts the rest of that day and into the next. I remember I had a hard time sleeping.

A few years ago I mentioned the day to Jeff. He had no recollection of it.

The next day, Sunday, was a difficult one for me. I don’t remember the Sunday school lesson, but I remember my teacher asking if I was OK. I don’t recall anything my dad, the pastor, said from the pulpit, but I can remember how the pew back felt in my hands as I gripped it tightly and said I’d do something about it that night if I still felt like I needed salvation.

That night, Dad couldn’t talk fast enough. I wanted the service to be over and I wanted to walk that aisle and tell him that I wanted to be saved, to have a right relationship with God. When the time finally came, I practically ran on what felt like cushions of air down the aisle. Through my tears, Dad was able to make out what I wanted — what I needed — and led me to faith in Jesus as my Savior. Now that was a life-changing event.

I’ll never forget what Jesus did for me that day, and all he has done for me since.

Some things you just can’t forget.

Now … did I eat breakfast?

Brett Campbell can be reached at brett.campbell@dailyleader.com.