Memory and Forgiveness and Death

Winter                                           First Moon of the New Year

Finished the Art of Fielding.  A book about striving and letting go, about loving and letting go, about baseball and Moby Dick, about heterosexuality and homosexuality, about living and dying.  All in the compass of northeastern Wisconsin, around Door County.  A fine read.

In the movie Patton, George C. Scott as Patton, in reviewing a harsh slap to a soldier with shell-shock, what we would call post-traumatic stress syndrome, recalls the morale of the other soldiers in the Third Army, “It was,” he says, in an explanation and a confession, “on my mind.”  Scott’s gravely delivery has lodged this sentence in my mind.

It reveals to me the awful and the beautiful truth about memory.  We can stand condemned by our past, but in our remembrance of things past (proust), we can confess in that Catholic way, a heartfelt acknowledgment of our complicity and yet our need and our opportunity to live beyond it and, if necessary, in spite of it.

This thought occurs to me after Marian Wolfe’s funeral, after all funerals, all deaths.  Whether there is a great judge who puts your soul on the scale against a feather or a sudden extinction, the moment after death is no different than the next moment in life.

This may seem a shocking thought, but consider.  At any one moment in time we carry what miners call an overburden, the piled up soil and stones and boulders and tree roots and unessential rock of our life experience.  At any one moment in time, too, we may cease to be.  In fact, at some moment, soon or late, we will cease to be.  And the moment after we die is no different than the one that comes next.  Right now.

Think of it.  When we die, that living slate gets wiped clean, a lifetime folds up and gets tucked away.  This is the same opportunity we each have, every moment, if we can only open ourselves to our past, receive it in all its humanness, accept it and move on.

You may say we live in the memory of others.  Well, the memory of you lives on in the lives and memories of others, also perhaps in land you’ve loved, books you’ve written, paintings you’ve created, houses you’ve built, quilts you’ve made, but these are not you.  They are the memory, the imprint of you.

You are that whole universe lived within your Self, in the body and in the mind and in the spirit or the soul.  That others can never know, can never see, can never experience.  That universe experiences its apocalypse at the moment of your death.

This is very liberating.  We need only accept the death of our private universe to realize how tiny each event that looms so large in our memory is.  It will be swept away.

Hmm. getting tired here and don’t want to dig this further right now.  But its important to me anyhow.