Who should we memorialize? That was the question my wife asked last week as the calendar reminded us that it was that time of year. She wondered aloud about the names of those near and dear to us who are now part of our past: Aunts and uncles, friends and colleagues, famous and infamous. The list has grown with each passing year, and shows no signs of stopping. If anything, the way things have ramped up recently has been, at times, oppressive.
This is the age in which we find ourselves. There was a time when we were attending weddings. Then there were the baby showers. Celebrations of the joining of two lives, and the announcement of new lives beginning. That trend has begun to wane as I meet more and more people. It means there are more and more people to whom I must eventually bid adieu.
It was my father's habit to read the obituaries in the newspaper. As a longtime resident of his adopted home of Boulder, Colorado, he marked his passage through life by measuring his longevity against those around him. The family joke centered around just what he might do if he ever opened the paper to find his name there in glorious black and white. It is the tragedy of the way we live our lives that all those tributes and flowers show up after we're gone. I don't know if my dad would have imagined that he would fill the pews in the Methodist church. He got his oft-repeated wish to be scattered across the hills around our mountain cabin. We made sure of that, but I would imagine if he could have traded a few more trips around the sun for that ceremony, he would have made do with something less.
And how much sense does it make that once you are no longer in a rush to get anywhere, they let you run every red light in town?
If there is an afterlife, or a heaven, or a place to go after this, I suspect that all the fuss is still appreciated, but just like those red lights, is it really necessary? We have forever to remember, living on in the hearts and minds of those we met along the way. The memorial is a time stamp that marks a passage. A day. A year. A decade. Lest we forget. We are all veterans of one sort or another. We all deserve that moment. That wreath of flowers. The memories. They live on in photo albums and newspaper clippings. In those memories.