|The Bridge of San Luis Rey|
I've been going through dusty file drawers for the last three years and converting fifty years of paper files to digital files, now in the form of blogs. ( Click on "My profile" to the right to arrive at the actual blogs which open with a click) What impresses me most in these half-century of records, is how many little shrines I have created to interesting people
Today I was watching the dedication of the W.W. II Memorial in Washington, which honored former Senator Bob Dole, one of the sponsors of the idea for the memorial. Vice President Biden said, as did others, "Bob Dole's name will never be forgotten."
Every time I hear these types of glorious predictions I am reminded that they absolutely contradict my experience of life. People are forgotten almost immediately after they leave this world. It is almost a form of amnesia necessary to the continuation of history. If you are dragging the memories of people around with you like the chains of Jacob Marley's ghost, life becomes an ordeal.
I have watched the memories of some of the folks I have paid tribute to in these blogs, evaporate in less than a decade, even folks who had earned half-page obituaries in the New York Times.
I am pleased on this Easter Sunday to resurrect the memories of many worthies on my digital dashboard here.
Like Thornton Wilder, however, I am aware that "death is just another heartbeat."
All of the hearts now beating are moving quietly and unrelentingly away one beat at a time from those hearts which have stopped beating.
Hear Samuel Pepys on the death of his brother (March 18, 1664 entry):
And being come to the grave as above, Dr. Pierson, the Minister of the parish, did read the service for the buriall and so I saw my poor brother laid into the grave; and so all broke up and I and my wife and Madam Turner and her family to my brother's, and by and by fell into a barell of oysters, Cake, and cheese of Mr. Honeywoods, with him in his chamber and below -- being too merry for so late a sad work; but Lord, to see how the world makes nothing of the memory of a man an hour after he is dead. And endeed, I must blame myself; for though at the sight of him, dead and dying, I had real grief for a while, while he was in my sight, yet presently after and ever since, I have had very little grief endeed for him.
(Pepys, p. 91; 18-19 March, 1664)
Another, perhaps more hopeful, Thornton Wilder quote comes to mind too, the final line from The Bridge of San Luis Rey : "There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning."
Please note the words; " the only survival".