A poem in a recent issue of Christian Century evoked a profound sense of my own losses of friends over the years: classmates, neighbors, those in organizations and other groups where our memories of events were shared moments. Sydney Lea’s “The pastor” describes a sermon during which the pastor remarks that his grade school friend has now lost his memory, and he notes, “I’m left alone with the things we knew together.” The impact of such a loss hit me. How many of my friends from the past have gone, leaving me as the sole bearer of our joint memories?
I think of friends I’ve had who knew almost as much about me and I did of myself. They are now gone, or our contact has been broken through geographical separations or life experiences. In a sense, whether those friends are alive or dead now, I am the bearer of what we knew together. A feeling of loneliness wells up as my memories crowd in upon me. I alone remember, I alone can tell the stories now of other times. There are, of course, new stories and new friends, but these don’t replace what once was part of my life.
As a writer, I am able to conjure up stories of lives for those who never existed in real time. I can describe through my poems emotions and events that are constructs for the truths of my past.
These stories and poems satisfy to some extent the need to recall what perhaps never happened, or what now is more clearly what really happened. As woman and mother and wife, I can recall those experienced relationships seen from this distance of time in a clearer light than during the immediacies of life. All comes down to human memories, human needs and wants and desires, and coping with unfulfilled hopes. I realize also that what has never happened can be as painful to reflect upon as those memories of what has formed me into this present self. Does it matter finally, what memories remain or how accurate they are? I don’t know. It may be that memory itself, shared or not, is the key to one’s life, and not necessarily the history in its own truth. All I know is that I continue to create memories and continue to tell the stories.