A Pause to Remember

Today on Twitter someone mentioned running across a picture of a friend from college that made her stop to remember someone who is gone now. I thanked her for that reminder to stop and think about the people we've lost.

That brought me back to the post I wrote about my friend Christianne Sharman, among other posts I've written about people who have touched my life and who are gone now.

In the past year three of my uncles died along with my dad. They were old, they had lived long and successful lives, but it still hurt to lose them.

I can still hear their voices and I hear Christianne, who had a wonderful voice.

I want to stop every so often to remember. For those of us who did a lot of growing up before the Internet we don't have a thousand gigabytes of sound and picture available just a click away. I have no recordings whatsoever of my uncles' voices. I have to rely on my memory and that will fade with time.

I do have a DVD of my dad thanks to brother Jim, who interviewed Dad for a story about his career as a World War II bomber pilot, but I haven't watched it since he died last November. I need to do that.

In the meantime we have memory, which is all we've ever had, and it needs to be cherished. The cave paintings of Lascaux may still be there but the full richness of what they stood for lived within the beings who painted them. The story of Gilgamesh meant so much more to real people listening to real storytellers than it can mean left to us on clay tablets. The repetition in The Odyssey is there because that aided the memories of those who performed it. We tell the same stories time after time at family gatherings because there's something about the way we hear it together that carves those memories deeper and deeper.

So here's to Uncle Russ, who looked so much like my dad, his older brother, and to his son Jerry Joe, who would have been my age had he not been hit by a driver in a pick-up truck while riding his bicycle--something that finds a haunting resonance for me now in my work in bicycle advocacy.

Here's to Uncle Wayne, with the hearty laugh, the knock-knock jokes, the loud Hawaiian shirts, and the ranch in northern California that we visited for family reunions. I still have a wooden winery box made by his company that I got as a kid on a tour of one of the wineries he supplied with shipping containers; it holds some of my sewing supplies and I think of him every time I use it. I remember his eternal patience when we rode in the motor home with him and Aunt Lorraine all the way from Lewiston, Idaho, to Cloverdale, California, for a visit, playing Elton John's Greatest Hits and singing "Crocodile Rock" at the top of our lungs. That's 855 miles of patience, mind you.

Here's to Uncle Bud, who had my birthday--or I suppose I had his birthday since he was born long before I was!--an architecture who designed many schools in California. He featured prominently in a story my mom told about challenging him to a race to see who could eat an ice cream cone fastest, during the Depression when an ice cream was a very rare treat. He chowed down only to find that she was still enjoying her cone in leisurely fashion when he finished first in short-lived triumph, and Grandma Humphrey made Mom hand over the rest of her ice cream cone in a lesson about selfishness as the older sister who should have known better.

And here's to my dad, who died Nov. 27, 2012, after a long life well-lived.

Pay attention to the people you love so you can hear them when they're gone.