Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Proust and Grief's Memory

Marcel Proust said memory is a process, not a repository. 

In the days after Evelyn’s death, an avalanche of memories filled the house. A slideshow of our life together played continuously on the wall, but out of sequence. It was an Evelyn and grief marathon, 24 hours a day.

Over the weeks, other memories came back when I opened drawers, closets, and storage boxes and saw more of Evelyn’s possessions, smelled her fragrance, or heard certain songs. Some memories appeared on their own, not tied to anything, like the trip we took to Monterrey one weekend to see the jellyfish at the aquarium. I hadn’t thought about that in over a decade.

Yet there were large gaps where I didn’t remember what we did or where we were. If Evelyn were here, we could jog each other’s memories and piece events back together. 

Studies in psychology say that we remember everything that has ever happened to us, details that are forever tucked away in the corners of our cortex and will return with the right stimuli. But without Evelyn’s input, I wonder if those memories are lost forever and Proust is right.

I don’t know what I don’t remember. The gaps bother me. It’s comforting to say that I’ll remember eventually if it’s important enough, but I’m not so sure. I forgot where we ate and what we did on our first date until I found my notes.

Now when any stray memory comes back, I write it down. Just in case.

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