This year I forgot to remember the day my mother died. I mean I went through the entire day without even thinking of her, without stopping to be sad or to be appropriately somber. Even now the admission makes me feel wretched.
When I realized what had happened, I was ashamed – ashamed that the wounds had healed -ashamed that the tears had dried up, ashamed that I had carried on with life, ashamed that I had lived while my mother had not.
What kind of a daughter was I? How could I have forgotten to remember?
How is it possible that when we lose the ones we love – we are convinced that we will never ever get over it? And how is it that time has the gumption to heal us without our consent and often without us realizing it?
How is it possible that the dagger of pain that lodges in our heart when we lose someone we love eventually shrinks and fades into a distant memory? And how is it possible that life fills us with so much to do we barely find the time to sit and ponder where the pain disappeared to?
How is it possible that the anguish of the loss can so disorient us, that we find ourselves adrift without a compass to navigate life’s hazards? And how is it possible that we make choices, one way or the other and find we’ve reached the destination on our own?
How is it possible that the grief which tears at our guts recedes into a barely perceptible ache? And why is it that our hearts continue to beat when we no longer have the will to live?
How is it possible that the memories that once besieged us, gradually vacate our minds to make room for the new memories we make along life’s journey?
What right do we have to carry on when the ones we love are gone? I mean what is a more fitting tribute than to grieve and mourn for them, to prove to ourselves and to others that they really mattered, that they still matter and that they’ll always matter?
I find myself thinking, who’ll remember me when I die? Who’ll miss me and who’ll care enough to mark the months, to count the years and to recall so trivial a detail as the date of the day that I die?
Will my son? Will the man I choose to spend my life with? Will my brother or my sister? Will the people I befriended, the people who befriended me and those who helped me or those I too, helped? Who will remember me?
Or will life inexorably go on? Will the memory of me lie discarded in the attic of their minds, gathering layers of dust and tucked away in the recesses of forgetfulness?
I think that if the memory of me brought nothing but sadness to those I cherish, I would much rather they forget me and embrace life. I would rather that they would sing, dance, fall in love and experience every possible wonderful thing before their time runs out.
For I would hate to think that my death would signal the end of their own lives – that in loving me, they chose to hate life – what a horrible waste I would think, what an awful tragedy it would be.
So as I ponder upon it; I find it is not a thing of shame that I did not remember that date – I think it is a thing my mother would have approved of. For she would not want me to build a shrine to her in my head – in the space where I could build dreams of the future; neither would she want me to erect an alter of sadness to pay tribute to her – in the space where I could weave fond memories to share with the grandson she didn’t live to meet.
So when I am dead, may those I love honor the memory of me by living and not by dying.
May those who looked up to me immortalize me by succeeding and not quitting.
May those who cherished me pay tribute to me through laughter and not tears.
And in the words of Christina Rossetti: Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
…in fond memory of my late mother, Virginia Machoeni Ndou (nee Lamola) who’ll always be in my heart though with the inevitable passing of time; she may stray from my mind.