• S.E. Burr

Remembering the Dead Through the Written Word

This week I became obsessed with remembering the name of a former coworker who had died. We never worked closely together, but he was kind to me and he taught me how to do a small thing at work so that I've thought of him every time I've done that thing since. But somewhere over the last few years, though I thought of him occasionally, I forgot his name.

That bothered me, but not nearly as much as I was bothered when I brought him up in the team meeting and realized that my few coworkers who were there at that time didn't seem to remember him at all. I described him and the project he worked with us on and they insisted that I was talking about someone else, someone who is still alive. Through this conversation I may have unintentionally started the rumor that someone we still work with is dead.

I couldn't stop thinking about it. I called people I no longer work with and asked them about him. "Hey, maybe this is a weird question, but do you remember that guy who..." They didn't. I began to think that there had been a dimensional shift and I was the shifter; without even realizing it I had slipped into a parallel dimension, one where the man I remembered had never existed or never gotten that particular job. Maybe he was still alive in this dimension and living somewhere far away and exotic, like Idaho.

Finally, someone claimed to sort of remember the guy but not his name, which reassured me that maybe maybe I wasn't completely loony toons. That night, I tossed and turned in bed. What was his name? His name...His name...and suddenly it came to me. Relief flooded through me and I fell asleep with a smile.

The next morning, it didn't seem so definitely right though. I searched the name online and found nothing to do with out town or our employer. I texted the person, let's call him Tony, who claimed to remember him and said, "Hey, his name was ___________, right?"

"No, that doesn't ring any bells."

The hunt went on.

The next day I asked that weird question to people who I knew even less well than the ones I'd already bothered. "Hey, do you remember that guy..."

Someone did. The name I'd remembered had been the right one. Darn it, Tony!

__________ was kind to me, he taught me to do a small thing at work; I remember what he looked like, a joke he told, and I remember his name.

But how quickly we forget.

That's changing. Recently I looked over a few genealogy sites online. I explored pictures and stories of ancestors and relatives I never met. I added a few things about my grandmother who recently passed. It matters to me that even when I've forgotten her, even when I've died and been mostly forgotten, that record should still be there. Her name and a few stories will be searchable and easily found for anyone who's looking. I wish she'd written down a few things about her own grandmother before she died.

Those memories are lost now, but my memories of my grandmother don't have to be.

Book of the week: The Throne of Glass by Sara J. Maas. Gripping fantasy story about a young, female assassin competing to become "the champion" of the king she hates. Full of magic, excitement, a little romance. I couldn't put it down. My one criticism is that I found some of the characterization a little unrealistic. Celaena, the main character, didn't seem nearly hardened enough to have committed all the murders casually mentioned in her history. If, in a sequel, I find out that she's an elf or some other mythological being, I won't be surprised because she didn't entirely pass as human to me. But we don't necessarily want our super heroes--and that's what she is, a woman with better-than-human fighting abilities--to be only human. This was a thoroughly enjoyable escape. I recommend it.

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