March 17, 2017
It’s not possible to remember everything. With time memories slip away. Fragments remain. And the love remains. At least, that’s what should remain.
I was looking for pictures to go with my post, yesterday. I dug out some boxes where they have been stored for nearly 15 years. Boxes I was reluctant to open. Too busy too open. Boxes that needed sorting. Boxes full of memories.
It was sweeter than I imagined. Places we had been. Things we had done. Pictures Anna had taken of her friends after a performance of The Diary of Anne Frank. Pictures of youth gatherings, choir trips, and school performances. Anna playing on a beach in Maine with children for whom she had once been their babysitter. Sitting with them on a massive rock by a waterfall in New Hampshire. All these pictures taken after the photo albums of infancy and early childhood had been assembled, but before parents started putting them together for their grown children. She never reached that stage.
I didn’t get very far in these boxes. The pictures trigger memories. I want to go through them with someone to whom I can tell the stories, otherwise the smiles of recognition turn to melancholy.
I want to put them in order. I want to get a scanner and make digital copies and sent them to Megan. I want to remember everything. Our hike down the Lost Coast. The Christmas at Grandma D’s when we slept on the living room floor because the house was full of family.
There is only one picture of Anna from our backpacking trip on Isle Royale, but there is the moose we saw, the bunchberries we ate, the scenery we gazed at in wonder from the ridge looking out across the islands and inlets.
I want to know, too, about the pictures I do not recognize. Ones Anna took. She wrote names on the back of some of them. Who were they? And who is the boy with her in this picture? And who is the boy in that one?
And there are questions. For what show was it that she dyed her hair?
I linger on these pictures. I am reluctant to put them back in the boxes. I want to take them out and spread them around. There is an impulse to paper the wall like some deranged character in a television cop show.
I want to remember it all. But there are holes in the stories. Memory fades.
I used to know details from the night her life was taken: how long was the skid mark (from her car, please understand; he never hit the brakes), how short the moment for the driver of Anna’s car to react, how high was the blood alcohol level of the one who careened toward them down the wrong side of the freeway. I have to look such things up, now. Maybe that’s ok. I only wish that memories of Anna didn’t fade, too.
Some things don’t fade. The spot on the side of the freeway. The hallway outside the courtroom where a reporter asked for a comment. The slimy lawyer who taught people how to avoid a DUI arrest – he grabbed my hand outside the courthouse and expressed his condolences before I could react. I wanted to wash that hand. I held it away from my body, not even wanting to wipe it against my jeans.
I asked the attorney to let me see the crime scene photos and the evidence pictures of Anna’s demolished car. I can only remember one of those photos, now, though I remember the devastation they showed. I wish I could see them again. I think.
I am not alone, I know. I have walked with people through some dark and desolate places. And I have heard stories yet more dark and desolate. I know some of the secrets people carry. I am always amazed at our capacity to endure.
I am heartened by those who turn their sorrow into kindness. I am saddened by those who turn it into bitterness. But I understand, most of us have stood at one time or another at that fork in the road where those two paths diverge, and I suspect most of us test the bitter road for at least a few steps. But the wise come back, or hack their way through the forest undergrowth to find their way to compassion.
Let us pray for wisdom. For each of us. For all of us.