All That’s Left Standing

About a month ago, my brother and I drove up to visit some family. They live in a city near San Francisco. It is always nice to get away and visit loved ones whom are not often seen, but going away like that is always bittersweet. It is great to be around other people and to be in a different environment, not having to worry about the normal stresses that always seem to pop up at home, but being away also makes me realize how much I actually like being home. Perhaps it is selfish, but I like having my own room, a bathroom with everything just as I have decided to place it, a kitchen in which I can find anything I need without having to open every cupboard door. I like being able to drive without directions, knowing where I want to go and how to get there. I like being able to see my close friends by driving only a few minutes. It causes me to realize that, even though the place that I live is not the most exciting place, I like it here and I miss it when I’m away. But perhaps I allow myself to be too comfortable. [Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and I really enjoyed visiting… as I said… bittersweet].

Well anyway, that was not what this post was going to be about… that was sort of a rabbit trail. What I really wanted to talk about is this: driving around in San Francisco (or riding around, since I wasn’t driving) and seeing the older architecture, passing by a graveyard with its bright white tombstones and walking in a park, seeing benches with little plaques on them, dedicated to various people… these things get my mind going. I begin to imagine. I like seeing those old houses, not only because they are aesthetically pleasing, but also because of all the possibilities of places for my mind to explore. I imagine what this place looked like when it was new, what the city was like, who lived there, who has replaced them over the years and who lives there now. There are so many stories represented by just one building that I will probably never know. It is like this with graveyards and memorials as well. All those names. They represent someone that was most likely loved and missed when they died. They represent lives lived by mostly ordinary people that are only memories until those remembering are no longer living. They represent stories [and I love stories].At one point during our little vacation, we walked through a little concert park within Golden Gate Park. As I briefly mentioned earlier, there were rows and rows of green, wooden benches, most of them with little bronze plaques on the place where spectators would rest their backs. These fascinated me because most of these plaques had the names of people to whom the benches were detected. Many of which had been deceased at the time of the dedication as indicated by the words “In Memory.” Memory. That’s all that these are. Memories. These names are representative of loved ones lost whom the living feel the the utmost necessity to keep alive somehow through memory. This feeling is all too familiar to me, having been trying to keep the memory of my mother alive for a little over three years now. But I think, because of my own experience, this idea fascinates me quite a bit. I can’t help but ask the question, hopefully without sounding insensitive: Is it truly important to remember the dead, or do we only make it thus to make ourselves feel comforted? I understand remembering important people in history for reasons that are obvious, but what about ordinary people? Who, besides me, really stops and looks at old buildings or tombstones or plaques and tries to imagine who these objects represent? And of those, who really knows who these people actually are? Who remembers them now, when those holding them in memory are no longer living? Does it really matter on this earth? It seems that these buildings and names etched in stone and metal are all that are left standing to really memorialize these people. And it all feels so important, but is it really?

Now, I hope that I have not stepped on any toes. I mean no disrespect to those who have passed away and those who miss them. Believe me, I feel that the remembrance of my mother is extremely important… but it is important only to those who knew her or those who are close to me now and care about the things that I care about. So, here I am talking more about whether it is important for others to remember these people. When my mom passed away, I wanted the whole world to stop and remember who she was and to pay their respects to her. But, obviously, that is illogical and unnecessary. This is what I am talking about. All those people forgotten. It could seem like a sad and horrible thing, but I would venture to say that it is not. And, for some reason, I find that fascinating.

[Feel free to discuss this with me in person or in comments or however you communicate with me. I’ve sort of kept these thoughts stewing in my own mind for a while and would be interested to see how others would contribute to or change my thoughts.]

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2 thoughts on “All That’s Left Standing

  1. i like this. i actually remember thinking about this at one point. The idea came from an insignificant movie “sister hood of the traveling pants 2.” but in there one of the characters made an interesting statement. I guess she was an Archaeologist searching for fossils of people mainly, and the lady working with her wondered when it was okay to do that kind of research. she said she didn’t know but guessed that it was no longer personal when the last person they knew died.

    Which I took and thought about for awhile. and I think it’s true that sometimes people are unsure of how long they should remember. People who had no knowledge of the persons loss could not mourn but people who cared about you knew her and so the chain of caring is carried down a long ways. When someone is memorialized it’s a completely different feeling, because the people who made the memorials may be long gone as well and so the feeling to empathize or to feel sympathy is diminished because it’s impossible to share a feeling with someone who is no longer here. and then it makes you think you can’t share the feeling of remorse with them not only because there not here, but because they have been reunited and would no longer feel the same way they did when they were here.

    • Yeah, I think that, since we can only see the world through our own eyes, it is only natural that many people will be forgotten once they are gone from this earth. It is something that I think could make some people feel uncomfortable or upset, but it really isn’t such a tragedy or strange thing. It only seems like such a big deal to those who are in the midst of the situation, and I think this is the same with lots of other things in human life.

      Thank you for your thoughtful response! 🙂

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