losing memory

by Kristen

“It hasn’t been the same since Uncle Ehrie died. As long as he was here, I still had my dad. Now . . . ”

The words caught in her throat as they lodged in my heart.

Marv’s been gone for almost twenty years. But his mannerisms, his humor, his presence—a piece of him—remained in Ehrie. As long as one brother was here, it seemed the other had stepped out for a moment, not for eternity. Losing Ehrie meant losing Marv all over again.

And the loss is incalculable. Our collective memory has shrunk by a generation. The empty place at the table gapes extra wide. The silence thunders.

Branches of our family tree petrify, and we lose touch with parts of ourselves we can never tap into again. I don’t know how to handle the familial memory loss. We have pictures, yes. Some albums and letters, perhaps. Mementos. But voices and stories slip away forever.

As often as I sit with Grandma and hold her hand and sift through the jumbled recollections, the memories will never transfer to me. I string together letters on a page intent on capturing her tone and spirit. But words are a poor medium for life. Some day the next generation might read them—without being able to recall her for themselves—and they’ll find the faintest representation of her, scarcely a shadow of the reality she lived. I cannot transmit her memory intact.

Such is life. Each generation can wrap their arms around only so many. But how grateful am I so many of each generation trust the same Love to surge through us and enliven branch after branch.

 

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