I can’t remember a lot of things about her life. I’m having a hard time remembering specifics about things we did. I’m having a hard time remembering the distinct things she said or fun and exciting stories from her life.
I do remember her essence. Her shine is so burned into me, it’s part of my DNA. I remember what it felt like to be around her and I remember my constant love.
The flip of this is that I don’t remember a whole lot of what happened when I got the call. I don’t remember the drive to Detroit or driving home. I only remember the highlights of the weeks I spent preparing for her funerals. I don’t actually remember much of her funeral at all. I do remember being surprised there were three priests attending to her mass.
The same thing happened when my husband passed. Time wore down those memories. The same as her, I remember his love and his essence. And I remember crying in the bathroom during his illness. But I don’t really remember what his voice sounded like. And I don’t remember how much taller he was than me. Were we the same height? I know we were about the same because I have photos of us standing together.
I don’t remember her baby smell, but I do remember her birth and all of the time we spent in the Detroit Children’s Hospital. She had four surgeries for her urinary tract condition. Or was it five? I don’t remember.
I hate that I can’t remember these things.
I’m okay with not remembering the trauma that happened right after their respective passings.
One of my issues with my memory is that I’ve augmented it with fabrication. I wasn’t there when she died. I was three hours away. But my mind has concocted a memory that doesn’t exist. I remember her in the tub, I remember her passing out and slipping under the water. It’s horrible. I hate it. I try to get rid of it and think of other things when it creeps into my mind.
I remember her in my arms as a teenager, giving me reluctant hugs (because teenagers don’t do hugs).
I remember dancing with him one night when he’d had enough to drink that he forgot he didn’t like to dance.
A couple of years ago RadioLab did an episode on memory. One of the take-aways was that every time we access a memory it changes just a little. Little changes that are molded into something just slightly different than what was. The things we can’t remember, those things that don’t easily come, those are the memories that are pure and exact. Our brains have not changed them.
This is what I have left of her. A changing memory.
But I am resolute in my memory of her spirit. The things that aren’t tangible.
I don’t remember if I burned her with the curling iron when I did her hair for her 12th grade homecoming dance. I do remember her excitement. I remember my pride.
I will always remember the shine they both left in the world.