Lives lost

When people die, they lose their lives. But their lives are also lost, not all at once, but slowly, as the memory of them is erased. Perhaps the life of Nelson Mandela will never completely be lost, immortalised in history, in books, in the memory of one generation and the regard of those that follow. But most people are not so fortunate.

With your death, your own memories die with you. Your particular experience of the world is gone. The memory others have of you remains, until they too die, leaving behind only second and third hand tales. Some people keep diaries. Only the diaries of the “great” are read. For most, having kept no record, nothing but official documents and records, which get lost with every change of administration, remain.

It seems sad to me that the lives of most people on this planet are completely forgotten. Our “history” is but a biased selection of encounters deemed important. This forgetfulness vexes me because I have a peculiarly bad memory. My life is a vague blur just a few weeks into the past, as if that part of my life has already partly died.

The lives of my parents and grandparents will be lost too. Some families have a tradition of relating the tales of their forebears. Mine does not. I know little of the lives of my grandparents, nothing of my great-grandparents. On the one hand I understand the shackles of the past – that the world renews itself, a living thing, unburdened with its own history. But today, I mourn the loss of every little story that never gets told.

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