“I will remember you, will you remember me? Don’t let your life pass you by. Weep not for the memories.” – Compose by: Sarah McLachlan, Seamus Egan & Dave Merenda. Recorded on Sarah’s project, “Rarities, B-Sides and Other Stuff”, released in 1996 on the Nettwerk label.
So will you? Will you remember Sarah McLachlan in 100 years or more? What about, Frank Sinatra, John Wayne, John Lennon or Elvis maybe. (Although, tourism has declined at Graceland in recent years.) I love Sarah McLachlan, but only the iconic are remembered after a century or more. Just ask Mozart, Beethoven or Caruso. ME: Or, maybe George W. Johnson! See what I mean? (George was the first African-American vocalist to be recorded in 1890.) YOU: Oh, yeah, THAT George W. Johnson! ME: Come on, don’t kid me.
Okay, so you’re not an icon….or are you? Doesn’t it depend on who analyzes you today? I dare say Barbra Streisand might be a global icon that may survive another ten decades, but you may not be a Streisand. In the end, does it really matter? Does it matter to you?
In 1957, Hollywood put out a slew of memorable movies. One of which, “The Incredible Shrinking Man”. Surely you remember catching it on a late night movie slot on television. When I was a kid I recall the fright that went through my body watching the tiny Tom Thumb-of-a-man fight for his life as a normal sized spider wanted him for breakfast. If memory serves me right, just before being gulped, he slew the spider with a sewing needle, or safety pin that, to him, was the size of a pole. He kept shrinking into a speck of a man trying to survive the flood of a drop of water, a dinosaur-sized house cat, etc. Great effects for 1957 cinema. The smaller he got the more his shrinking voice couldn’t be heard screaming for help. Before you knew it, his friends could no longer see him as he transformed more and more into the microscopic. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of. I do remember dreaming my mom shrunk and fell into the sound hole of my toy guitar, unable to get out, no matter how hard I tried to rescue her.
We too will shrink. You realize this, right? Maybe you already have. It’s not science fiction. For some of us, it’s quite alright. That’s what memorials and tombstones are for. At the cemetery, I am always surprised to have to reboot my memory of birth and death dates of family long since gone. Sad, really. The truth is, after you are put in the ground, or your ashes are spread, the memory of you immediately begins to shrink. Not long after you’re gone, your Facebook friends will be too. Generation after generation of descendants may not read of you, hear of you, or even know where your grave lies. The Who might ask, “So tell, who are you? I really want to know.” Allow me to ask again. Does this matter to you?
“Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children” – Chuck Swindoll. There’s something to be said about the overly used phrase, “We preach our funerals everyday.”
The old faded photo above I believe to be, Robert Samuel Martin. He was born 12/14/1848, died 8/20/1917. I say, “I believe to be…” because I am going by old records from a great aunt, I didn’t know well, who is also long since dead. If I am accurate, Mr. Martin was my great-great grandfather on my mother’s side. That’s it! I know nothing else about the man. He’s only been dead for 100 years this month and I am at a loss when it comes to just “WHO” he was. I want to pick up my cell phone or hook him up on Skype for an interview. Was he a singer? Was he a farmer? Could he read? What did he like to read? What were his habits? What and who did he love most in life? What stock did he put in the society and politics of his day? Better question might be, did he care? Who told him to wear his Sunday-go-to-meetin’-clothes for this photo? When told, did he laugh, balk or cuss? Did he know he would have a great-great grandson who would have a similar beard? Did he fight in the Civil War as a teen? It’s all guess work. I’m afraid the good, bad or ugly will stay a mystery concerning grandpa Martin. Alas, I will never know.
What will they say about me in 100 years, if anything? How interested today are my own children? How many questions have they asked me about my thoughts, habits and life? That is a solid gauge to measure what my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will know of me. Am I preaching my funeral everyday, or will I be another incredible shrinking man out in a cemetery somewhere?
“A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth.” – King Solomon, Ecclesiastes 7:1 (ESV)