We’ve just passed the anniversary of when my granny decided to see what there was after this so called tangible life of ours. We’ve also just marked the anniversary of a terrible day for so many people connected to New York and America. And it’s a few months on from the passing of a friend (see dear You)
I remember where I was and what was happening each time I heard the news. I know who I was with, whether it was night or day, and how I assimilated. And the thing I learned is that grief is a universal feeling. The nuances change, of course, for each situation, but essentially it’s the same process. You cry for the loss of the possibility of seeing that person again. You weep for those who relied on their spirit to help give meaning to their journey. You mull over what it all means and you tire if you can’t easily see the answer. You find smiles for what they brought this world and the tears lessen if you change their passing into a legacy which you can carry on, in any small way.
And now there’s technology. A few months after he’s passed, and my friend just popped back into my Facebook newsfeed. It’s his girlfriend, wanting to thank everyone for their support. It’s a beautiful gesture and, honestly, one of the most stunning photos I’ve seen of him or them, but it’s eerie. He’s moved on but he’s still appearing as someone here, connected to me in cyberspace like all my living friends are. It’s a cheat’s eternity.
Since 9/11, I don’t think there’s been a year when I haven’t seen a replay of the footage in some way. And I’ve never even lived in America. I rail against it, there’s so much in me that thinks it remembers the wrong part of the people’s lives. But I also understand why the footage is resurrected. But I will still never watch any footage that zooms into the towers. It’s not out of disrespect. I’m not ignoring what happened. How could I? I just don’t think that I want to remember anyone as that final moment. I’d rather spend my mind space understanding the beautiful and ordinary lives they held up until that moment and how others have honoured them since. The documentaries, largely, don’t resurrect them, rather the political agendas that you do or don’t agree with.
My granny was a part of my life more than most would know. To this day, I learn from her: the things I saw her do, how she said what she needed, how she presented to the world. She was probably the first person I remembering wanting to win over, one of the first I was in awe of. And yet, because of who she was and what we are like as a family, in this world of technology, she is the most static of them all. We have some photos, less as she got worse. There may be some video but none in my possession. And she clearly wasn’t on Facebook. She’s passed in the old fashioned way: quietly, without spectacle and with little to tangibly resurrect. There is no Randy Pausch farewell YouTube phenomenon for me to watch endlessly. And in a way, her memories are most special because I don’t share them. They are to me what they are to just me. No-one else. Not even my dad.
And I wonder if there is something in that. That in a world where we are simultaneously connected and disconnected, if our grieving memories are where this is shown most. As the UK mourned Princess Diana, did we mourn better as a nation or was it harder for those who really knew her to mourn in their own necessarily private and somewhat insular way? Are we allowed private memories or do we now feel compelled to make them all public? And at what point do we stop resurrecting and honouring what had passed, remembering but not literally re-living?
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember her and only that she’s gone
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
– David Harkins