Monday, April 5, 2010

Lincoln and the Art of Memory Making

This past week I vacationed in Key Largo with Teen. She was eager to try snorkeling before her June Marine Biology camp. Since I'm not a swimmer I was content to enjoy the sunshine on board the boat. All went well. Perfect weather, calm seas. That was Day 1. We were pretty much out of things to do after that. Yup, Key Largo is all about snorkeling, diving and fishing. Beaches aren't much and I wasn't too interested in getting my name carved on a seashell so I spent a great deal of time lounging outside and reading a book on Lincoln, Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

This is no ordinary book. It's a big sucker..754 fascinating pages. Admittedly, like all his contemporaries, I fell a little in love with Abe. I teared up at the end, even though I already knew how it ended. One passage in the book struck me so much I underlined it. It said that Lincoln was unable to find comfort in the idea of a literal afterlife in heaven. Instead "he found consolation in the conviction that in the memories of others some part of us remains alive."

Lincoln did a lot of things worth remembering. But what about us ordinary folk? Will we remain alive in memories of others a hundred years from now? I grew up hearing the stories of my uncles and aunts growing up. They were passed down to me and my cousins, but it's unlikely they will move beyond my generation. I sometimes tell my daughter bits and pieces about my parents, but she never knew them herself so do those odd details really have any holding power? It's unlikely that I will live long enough to make a lasting impression on a granddaughter of my own so will memories of me stop at the next generation? If my daughter tells her of our trip to Key Largo, will it stick and be passed along?

Yet, I am hopeful that someone somewhere a hundred years from now will be doing a little genealogy work and will run across my name and seek to learn more. Perhaps they will find these little postings forever held in some internet cloud just waiting to be discovered. I suppose it's still possible I could do great things and make the history books, but not likely. Still, I've many years ahead of me to make memorable memories and to resurrect the memories of others. Because, yes, I do want to live on in someone's memory.

When Hubby asked me how I wanted my remains handled after death I said, buried with a marker. It won't say much about me other than I existed, but that's a start.

Darn, now that I think about it, I should have had my name carved on that seashell! I don't think even Lincoln had one of those.


  1. So true . . . my dad had all the stories and we heard them so much they began to go in one ear and out the other. Now, I wish I would have written them down. All I know is that somebody named Aunt Tressie used to start cleaning up the dishes before everyone was done eating and my Unlce Aaron played the "Piece of Wood" in a school play once.

  2. Have often wished someone had written down the stories of our aunts and uncles. There was the one about putting the truck on top of the barn as a Halloween trick. Then there was the time Uncle Jack took the shotgun off his Aunt Jo's wall and started playing around with it, not knowing it was actually loaded. Almost killed his brother. (It was funny hearing my uncles tell it, though doesn't sound so funny in writing!) Then there are the stories of my own brothers. The one about tying my mother to the sink so they could go out to play is a classic. I'd write them down myself, but just don't have the details in my head to make them come to life.