A year ago today, we lost my brother to non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Since that time, we have also lost my great aunt, a cousin back east, a cousin overseas, and a colleague and mentor of dpaul's, who died very suddenly in a freak skiing accident.
In previous years, we've lost many others: My father, five years back; Lee, a dear friend in Atlanta; countless other relations and acquaintances.
Loss is hard. It's painful, and confusing. Our minds, ever creatures of habit, cannot easily adapt to the idea that someone who has been a living, breathing part of our lives all at once simply is not, that they've been plucked from existence.
I suppose that's why they linger with us. My paternal grandmother, who had a tremendous influence on me in my youth, still regularly pays visits in my dreams despite the fact she departed more than two decades ago. Most recently I saw her and several other lost relatives, including my father, socializing in what resembled a tea lounge, all carved wood and etched glass. I got to touch their hands, give them hugs and kisses. I felt the soft skin of my grandmother's cheek on my lips. They were laughing, having conversations before I arrived and continuing after I left. Their existence didn't depend on me. I was just passing through.
In this digital age, people linger in other ways. Lee peers back at me, always smiling, on Facebook; his profile remains active thanks to mutual friends who share memories to his wall, or just speak directly to him, as though Facebook somehow transcends the barrier between life and death. Each time I see his face, I feel a twinge in my heart, the stinging ache of loss, softened by time but never fully quelled. Yet I can also hear his booming laugh, remember his incisive wit.
On our AppleTV, the screen saver pulls images from our Photo Stream, a massive collection of photos new and old. For my father's celebration of life, I scanned in a large set of photos, and many of them turn up in between the pictures of dinners, the dog, and other ephemera of daily life. The picture above shows dad and Adam at a garden my father grew in New Hampshire, maybe in 1989. Dad was so proud, proud of the garden, of the corn he grew, of Adam. They were happy. I can still feel the humid summer air, taste the bursting kernels of super-sweet Silver Queen fresh from the stalk, each time I see this image pop up.
Life is not about what we've lost, but what we keep. Every memory, no matter how it's retained, is a treasure.