Of death and memory


As many of you know my good and long-time friend Dianne Hamer died June 22 (my mother’s birthday), and her memorial service was a week ago in California. Her illness and death took us up and down I-5 many times this spring and summer, and as a result our usual routine has gone missing. I don’t begrudge those trips of course, but I do begrudge my inability to snap back to what I consider normal in a quick and efficient manner.

Some of this slugishness can be put down to my continued mulling about death—both what’s bad and what’s good about it. Dianne and I had several conversations about her imminent demise. She shared the Buddhist belief in reincarnation and did not fear dying. But she did, like all of us I suppose, want “just a little more time.”

When someone dies their story also dies: their memories, beliefs, ideas, feelings—everything they tell themselves about themselves—simply dissolves. Their memory of our shared experiences goes too. I can no longer say to Dianne, “remember this, remember that?” and receive an answer. My personal story is, therefore, diminished.

How much of our grieving is for that diminution of our own self? And why grieve for it? Are we not now freer, sleeker versions of ourselves, unburdened by the past? I guess that depends on how much you value memories. Some people cherish them, surrounding themselves with evidence of previous success or happiness—even unhappiness. The growth of scrapbooking suggests that memories are big business.

I have never been a memory collector. I prefer the present to the past and I seldom visit the future. This is neither good nor bad, nor can I claim consistency. Nevertheless, the loss of Dianne’s friendship, along with her memories of our many adventures (memories I probably forgot long ago given my record) saddens me. Good friends are so valuable and hard to come by. I will miss her.