Death and Memory

I just finished a book on death and personal family memoir by Nothing to Be Frightened Of .  “Nothing” is a double entendre that also means “total annihilation of your being”. The central theme is, religious beliefs not withstanding, that the living brain simply can’t grasp it’s own death. To quote William Saroyan, “Everybody has got to die, but I always believed an exception would be made in my case. Now what?”

One implication is the living are compelled to embrace being alive, i.e. move on with your life after someone dies. Like a New Orleans funeral, strike up the pomp and circumstance after the tomb is shut.

Another implication is that websites that honor the dead are simply not interesting except to a very few loved ones who can’t let go. When I cycle home I use a bike trail that passes by a local cemetery. A nearby grave was decorated in flowers and flower petals laced into the chain link fence surrounding the cemetery spelled out “We miss you Mom”. I frequently saw two young women kneeling next to the site. I only pass this way once or twice a week, so seeing them every time meant they were there every day. But no more. Life goes on.

Creating memoir engages your memory. We are our memories. Memories older than eleven years are known to reside (and hide) in some corner of the hippocampus until something draws them out. Drawing them out brings you closer to your own past and brings people that affected you back into your life – either as memories, or contributors to your ongoing life story.

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