“I never said I wanted a ‘happy’ life but an interesting one. From separation and loss, I have learned a lot. I have become strong and resilient, as is the case of almost every human being exposed to life and to the world. We don’t even know how strong we are until we are forced to bring that hidden strength forward.” Isabel Allende
As Ms. Allende points out, we have all suffered losses in our lifetime and a common reaction to the loss of a loved one or a relationship is an almost involuntary grasping toward something that can keep the memories of that person or relationship close by.
For some of us, we grab onto an object that we can hold in our hands—our Grandmother’s jewelry, our partner’s favorite shirt or the last birthday card they sent. We charge these objects with the responsibility of comforting us and softening the heartache we feel when we think of what we no longer have.
For others, it’s less physical but still we look outside ourselves for a way to remember and hold close those who are no longer nearby.
What is it that actually matters?
Showing up. Participating. Digging in. Life.
The public mourned the deaths of Muhammad Ali, Prince, Patty Duke, Morley Safer, Harper Lee and David Bowie, among others, flooding social media with posts although few of the people posting knew any of the deceased personally.
We can guess that the public felt close to these people because of how these people lived their lives and what they contributed to the larger community, from thought-provoking journalism, athletic excellence, self-actualization to creative artwork in many forms.
Those contributions become part of human legacy, to be experienced anew by people not even born yet. They may never experience the thrill of watching Ali box, seeing Prince cavort across a stage or eagerly anticipating another masterpiece from the pen of Harper Lee, but that doesn’t diminish the impact each of them had while they were alive or what they might inspire in generations to come.
It would be foolish and a desperate act to try to capture something so ephemeral and powerful and hold it captive in an object as if that object were capable of fully communicating a lifetime’s worth of experiences.
It simply isn’t big enough.
It is also the lazy choice.
When you rely on things to keep memories intact, you are letting yourself off the hook. You are shifting responsibility for something deeply personal onto something completely inanimate. Bad math and ultimately destined to fail.
It would be much better to dig deep within yourself and find ways to keep memories and experiences available to you and to those still close to you as a way of honoring and celebrating those who are gone.
Bake a favorite cake, sing a beloved song, dance a crazy dance, tell a tender story—enrich someone else’s life in the way you feel your own life enriched by what has already passed.
We who remain have the real responsibility to carry on … not an old garment or faded card.