Some people make such an indelible impression on you that no matter how many years pass, you don’t forget them or the experiences you shared.
Or so you think.
Those memories can seem vivid until you go to document them in words. And that’s when the self-doubts start to arise, and you wonder if what you’re trying to write down really happened the way you think you remember. Or maybe you can’t quite remember at all, and you wish you had kept journals from that period in your life, because surely, those entries would tell you what you’re anxious to know.
But then you remember that you did have journals from that period of your life. Key word, did. Past tense. Because you destroyed them. You even remember why. You also remember that your closest friend, who was with you during all those crazy things that happened, was in possession of one of your journals that she refused to let you destroy. She kept it from you on purpose, for a reason.
How smart she was.
But even more importantly, she’s the only one in your life who knows what happened during that time, because she was there. In fact, she’s the only single person who shared those elusive memories that you’re seeking to excavate. You think to yourself, maybe you should call her up and take a trip down memory lane together, because wouldn’t she be able to help you remember? Besides that, you two can have a laugh about that time in your lives. You’ll enjoy reminiscing about your shared past, most likely over a glass of wine. Or two. Because you know such a thing calls for wine.
Except you also know this particular trip down memory lane isn’t possible. And you’ll never get the answers you’re seeking. Not from her, anyway.
Because your friend is gone. She passed away five years ago, and this is something you have not forgotten, even when you still have these ridiculous longings and notions that you can just pick up the phone and call her. Particularly when you have these inclinations, because they hurt even more when you know you can’t. Even five years after her death.
Grief is a funny creature. It shows up unannounced at the worst times, has deplorable manners, and doesn’t pay the rent. And just when you think it’s finally packed up and left, it sneaks in and attacks like a ninja in the night, because it was still there, festering all along. Like that spider nesting in the towel you reach for after your shower. Waiting to get you when you’re naked and most vulnerable.
And I, weak and vulnerable, inadvertently let grief walk right into my house while trying to retrieve these other memories a few days ago. I wish I could say grief was a stranger to my house, but it’s been here before. It knows where to hide. As of this writing, it’s still lurking somewhere, unbeknownst even to my cats.
The last time grief showed up as an unwelcome house guest, it arrived on the heels of a death certificate. A life summed up in meaningless words filling neat boxes on a single page. Someone’s entire legacy boiled down to one impersonal sheet of flimsy paper.
A friend once asked me if I feared death. At the time, I said no. What I feared was pain and suffering. Sitting here once again in the shadow of grief, I realize my true fear is that my life will mean nothing more than the meaningless words which will fill those little boxes on a death certificate for me someday.
Unremarkable. Mediocre. Forgotten.
It makes you wonder what purpose words serve, really. Words, so two-dimensional, so easy to misinterpret.
So why am I bothering with the writing project at all? Why have I subjected myself to these echoes of the past when I know grief is one of the gatekeepers of those memories? Is it worth the pain? Is what I have learned and what I have to say important if ultimately, it will be expressed in flat, easily misunderstood words?
I don’t know. Maybe. Words diminish, but words also create. I guess it’s all in how they’re used.
Kind of like us.
It’s how you live, or how you don’t.
So I guess right now, I’ll choose to bother, grief and all.