A woman I worked next door to passed away a week ago. I thought of Joan and remembered her dry wit and general kindness. So, I asked myself, “what memories will come to the minds of people I’ve encountered when they hear of my death? Though not imminent as far as I know, when the time comes, how will people reflect on me?”
And then it occurred to me that perhaps I can start to be more conscientious in my everyday interactions. When I’m late for something important and become impatient with traffic slowing my progress, and shout “hurry up!”, what impression does that leave on my friend in the passenger seat? Will he remember my temper or will he remember that I was driving him to his doctors appointment? I think that some people have a tendency to focus on the negative while others are more prone to remember the good stuff. It makes me sad that when I ask a widow how she’s doing, I am answered with an account of a bitter feud over her husband’s will. I’m sure he would want her to recall all the good times. Hopefully, he made sure there were very many moments of laughter to imprint on his wife’s mind and heart. Or, when another friend recounts over and over again every romantic breakup she’s ever had instead of basting in memories of new love.
Maybe my project for the summer should be to make as many uplifting memories as possible. Maybe there will come a time when all I have left is to ponder on the past and reflect back on my life because I will be facing few tomorrows. Do those who die suddenly really see their lives flash before them? Do those who die a slow death need more time to reflect on how they treated others in their relationships? I will never regret walking my dog for two hours everyday but I might regret not walking for three hours instead. Will I mourn the things left undone and unsaid? Can I make amends now to those that I shut out of my life without an explanation? When I was 16 and living on my own, I used to steal sandwiches and toilet paper from the hospital across the street from where I lived in a rooming house. Like Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, I told myself that life had handed me a poor deck of cards and that I had the right to even things out by taking what wasn’t mine. It was only after someone stole my sheets from the laundromat that I realized what it feels like to be stolen from. Likewise, I held rancour in my heart for all the horrible things my mother said to me, until in a moment of anger I swore at the person I loved most in the world. Then I realized how it feels to crave to be forgiven for words spewed out in frustration. I’m going to work hard to make sure that the memories I create from now on are good ones.
Manon is a resident of Boyle Street and an active volunteer in the community. This column contains her own opinions, and is not affiliated with the Boyle Street Community League.