The way I remember people is mostly through images and through pieces of conversations that ebb and flow in my mind. I can’t remember the grocery list I wrote out this morning but I can remember very particular details from a moment that happened ten years ago, two weeks ago, last night.
It’s the way someone looked when they thought no one was paying any attention to them at all, a graphic tee someone wore I thought was cool, an absence of conversation I had hoped would happen but didn’t, the way someone hesitated before speaking.
I collect these moments in my brain and reflect on them later, trying to piece together how a situation happened the way it did, the way a relationship formed or failed, or just to relive a particular moment that seemed emotionally significant (or insignificant).
I’m a big fan of remembering last looks – the way someone looked the last time I saw them. And also last words. It’s the last memory of my father who looked out at the farm land and said “everything has its season” a month before he died, or my last failed romantic encounter who stood in my doorway and told me “thank you for making me feel comfortable.” It’s too bad that last words, last memories often lie in a residual sadness well to later be picked up and thought of again in moments of nostalgia and reflection.
Memories are the way we tell stories back to ourselves to remember we’ve lived a life worth telling at all. It’s the process of remembering we’re human – moments weaving in and out of our brains, coming to surface at the strangest times, and other times disappearing into a space we’ll never be able to come back to again.
I guess that’s why whenever I say goodbye to someone I try to make a conscious effort to remind them of the love and gratitude I feel towards them. This doesn’t always happen, of course, but I guess if I end up in a collection of someone’s last words, last looks I hope I’ve made a small amount of difference in their life. And isn’t that the only thing we can ask for in the connections we make?