Thursday, August 20, 2015

When Remembering is One-sided

"I will remember you; will you remember me?" I've been so preoccupied with how we will remember Noah that until I chanced to hear this wistful song again the other day, I’d forgotten about Noah remembering us, his family. The silence at the end of the question sent me into a long crying fit in the car. 

Mutual remembering is the bargain we strike with those we love, even if we eventually break up or lose touch. They matter to us and we to them; we have shared some experience together; we recognize each other’s uniqueness; we are different for having known one another. This bond sustains relationships and makes us wistful at life’s passages, from graduations and weddings to the end of summer camp.

In families, it’s an unspoken covenant between generations that elders will not be forgotten; younger ones will tend our shrines. The young will carry us with them in how they see and act and look in the world, maybe even pass some stray bit of us on to the next generation. The whole taken-for-granted enterprise of family—what we bequeath to the young (for better or worse) and how they receive (or resist) it. Our little toehold on immortality.

But a suicide breaks the promise, nullifies the bargain. All of us who loved the lost person will continue to cherish them and carry them with us, but their particular way of holding us in their hearts comes to an abrupt halt. What should be a mutual exchange becomes woefully one-sided. This loss of part of ourselves happens with any death, of course, but it is compounded by suicide and especially a young person’s suicide, when there are no good byes. This did not have to be.

It strikes each time with a heavier sense of finality: The piece of my husband and me that became part of who our child was died with him. Our particular spark will never move through Noah and be reflected by him and re-imagined and passed on to others. We will never be regarded and remembered and loved in quite that inimitable Noah-like way again. We have to learn to live with the silence in this one-sided relationship of remembering.

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