In the course of twenty crowded years one parts with many illusions. I did not wish to lose the early ones. Some memories are realities, and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again. — Willa Cather
In the end life becomes just a collection of memories. As we lay in our death bed, the physical body frail, the mind though still active is losing its hold on memory, and illusions begin to take its place. Most of us have already forgotten more than we will ever again remember. For reasons I do not know some important memories remain. They had an impact upon our consciousness because they were usually the firsts. The first kiss. Our first dog. The first time someone we love dies.
Why do we remember? Why are some memories as vivid as if they happened yesterday while others could not be remembered even under torture? Do we remember so we don’t make the same mistake twice? So we don’t have to reinvent the wheel over and over again? Does remembering make our lives any better?
When Kathleen died, she visited me in a dream a few days latter. In that dream she said as clear as day a take on Gurdjieff’s words. She said, “Remember to remember, me.” I was so taken by the intensity of both the dream and the words that I immediately wrote a poem of the experience. Remember To Remember. Euripides said:
“There is something in the pang of change — More than the heart can bear — Unhappiness remembering happiness.”
Some believe for as long as a person is remembered, they still live and have an better place in the afterworld. It is easy for those who are well known or who were heroes to be remembered. We celebrate their birthdays. We study and learn about them in school. Every town in Ecuador has at least one building, street, plaza, or something named after Simón Bolívar. But how are those who are not famous or heroes remembered? Who remembers them after their family and offspring are gone. I remember mom putting the names of the people in old photographs on the back of the picture so that when viewed in the future, they would be remembered.
I remember the people I’ve lost in my life on their birthdays and on the day they passed. I remember Kathleen every day at 9:33 PM, the time she visited me on the night she died. I don’t need to set my clock. The alarm is internal. I tell her I love her. I thank her for all of the gifts she shared with me during our time together and then I say goodnight. It is a small ritual. If it does hold a better place for her in the afterworld then the memory is worth it. Her daughters are still alive and I know they remember her but most of her friends have passed. I also remember her at this time each evening for my own well being. This small ritual brings to me the feelings of gratitude, love, and humility. These are three qualities I hope to always remember and keep alive in my heart.