Does Robert Burns haunt you?
I used to listen to the strains of “Auld Lang Syne,” and wonder why it touched me so much, this old chestnut of a song usually heard belted out by drunken revelers at the end of one year, the beginning of another. It’s so clearly a song about loss and remembrance – lost friends, lost times, lost places, lost love. But the unspoken answer to the question the song asks again and again seemed so clearly and easily to be “no.” “Should auld acquaintance be forgot?” Well, no. Duh.
But what of the forgetfulness that you don’t want, that you don’t seek? The added loss of forgetfulness that further negates the lost love, the lost family member or friend, the lost childhood memories? Memory is so important, and, for the most part, so hard to control. The pictures blur, the recall of what happened in exact chronological order can fade and soften. The exact words spoken may be lost to us even if the sense of their meaning is not.
I used to worry that I might forget Teddy, that his memory might flee from me as I walk in the snow, as I decorate the Christmas tree, as I watch the birds at the bird feeder, as I go about the mundane comings and goings of my life, and this terrified me. I know that I am still letting go, that I haven’t come to a place where I can fully accept his death. I don’t know what that place looks like, but I think one of the reasons I can’t picture it is that I don’t want to lose any more of him. Not one memory, story or image, not one pain or tear or scrap of longing. But it’s becoming very clear to me lately that I can’t forget him, won’t ever forget him, that he will be a part of every meaningful moment in my life. Just now this knowledge is a huge relief. I don’t have to panic if I forget to light his candle some Friday evening, or if I don’t look at his photographs for a few days in a row. His memory and his loss are still with me, will always be with me, are grafted onto my being like the branches of some strange fruit tree. I don’t exist without them.
The answer to the question so plaintively asked by Robert Burns is, in my case, a resounding, sad, and relieved, “No.”
Teddy, my tough, darling, beautiful, beloved lost boy – even though “seas between us braid hae roar’d,” I do not, will not forget. Don’t you forget either.