Gone, but not forgotten.
Memory is a funny thing. I generally struggle to remember birthdays, anniversaries and other important milestones. And yet I spent the early part of Saturday with a little voice in my brain nagging me that July 11th was a significant date. Then I remembered that it was the anniversary of the death of one of my close friends from university, Sam Best-Shaw.
He died in 2009. He was 38. Those whom the gods love die young.
Death is a part of life, particularly as we get older. We are conditioned to expect our parents and grandparents to die at some point in our lives. To lose a peer is a shock to the system. To lose a child, unthinkable. But that is the reality some have to face.
Bloggers such as Leigh at Headspace Perspective and Kelly at Chasing Dragonflies know only too well what that’s like, whether they have lost a baby or an older child. Respectively, Hugo and Abigail live on in their parents’ memories and in the stories they have shared about them. I didn’t know either of them and yet through shared memory I feel like I did in some way.
It’s why the prospect of one day losing my memory terrifies me more than either physical incapacity or a painful but sudden death. Being unable to access the stories, images and associations with the people I know and love seems the cruellest fate of all.
We’re lucky to live at a time when our ability to store and share memories is unprecedented. My iPhone can access more photos, videos and written accounts of my children’s early years than my parents have ever amassed of me, and many of these have been shared almost instantaneously with family and friends all over the world via various forms of social media.
There are times when it feels like we have too many memories – the thousands of unsorted photos, the never-ending barrage of Facebook updates and blog posts – until the subject of those memories is suddenly taken away from us. Then we cannot have enough memories to ensure we do not forget.
For now, I think of Sam and the Stranglers’ Always the Sun – one of his favourite songs, which was played at his memorial service – immediately pops into my head, and a mass of mental images of past times come flooding back. Thanks to YouTube and Spotify, I don’t even need access to a CD and a stereo – I can now tap into that memory trigger almost anywhere, any time.
The body and soul may have gone, but the memories remain and, with the assistance of technology, are easier to tap into than ever.
Not forgotten. Never forgotten.
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