I have photographs all over my house. I think most people do. As I was looking at them, I started thinking about why we have photographs. We say things such as "a picture says a thousand words", and it's so true. For me, I think the main reason why I like pictures is because of all of the memories that they cause me to recall when I look at them. In a way, it's even as if the memories are stored in the picture and viewing the picture brings them all flooding back. I look at the wedding picture I have on my wall and I recall the day that I married Karen. Such a happy day, so many mixed emotions. I was scared, I was elated, I was angry (at really minor things, to be quite honest), I felt so many things. I even remember feeling as though everything were surreal "Am I really married now? I really do have a wife?"
I look at photos of Karen playing with her nieces and nephews, of the whole family altogether, of many different things, and I have all these memories rush back in. It feels wonderful. So, I wanted to dedicate a post to the memory of dear, late wife.
Those of you who knew Karen loved her very much. I am unaware of one single person who knew her and didn't like her. I can't say I even ever heard anyone complain about her or gossip about her (even before we got married). Those of you who did not know her probably think I'm making all of this up, and that it's too much like a fairy tale to be true. But, if you want verification, just go ahead and ask anyone that ever met her.
She was the sweetest woman I have ever met. She never said any unkind toward or about another person. I never heard her gossip, backbite, or betray anyone. On the contrary, anytime she was around someone who was gossipping, she would have something nice to say about the person being discussed, and she said it in such a way that it usually ended the gossip.
She was the hardest working person--male or female--that I've ever met. While she was attending college, she invariably took over 20 credit hours per semester, including countless hours of trombone lessons and individual practice. When she graduated, she always had a full-time job and when she came home from work, she'd get right to household chores, including all of the many remodeling projects we did on our own home. The thing that you need to realize is that this whole time she's fighting a battle with cancer. I have known many cancer patients over the years, and the cancer itself and all of the treatment that those patients have to undergo is quite taxing on their bodies. In most cases, when it is a rigorous treatment (such as those Karen underwent), the patient is bedridden for some time--or at least unable to leave home or the hospital. There were only a few short periods of time when Karen would stay home, though. She made it a point to attend every week of church, to go to work unless she literally couldn't stand up, etc. I remember at least a couple occasions when she would go to work and someone at work would tell her that she had to go home because she was too sick to be there. She was definitely a worker bee. I had a difficult time keeping up with her. She'd be willing to stay up until late hours at night sanding the floor, painting the walls, scrubbing the paint off the floor, washing dishes, doing laundry, etc just because the work had to be done and she didn't want to go to bed until it was done.
She was a very educated woman. She always wanted to learn. She would check out scores from the music library at my college so that she could practice conducting, since it was always her dream to be a band director. She attended summer workshops aimed at helping her improve her teaching methods. The last workshop she attended was only a couple weeks before she passed away. Even though she was confined to a wheelchair, unable to walk long distances on her own, she was dedicated to attending. I went with her to this workshop, to push her around in her wheelchair. It was a lot of work. It was about 8 hours every day for two weeks, and lots of homework was assigned every night. I could barely keep up and I wasn't even participating in any of the learning.
She was always trying to improve herself in every way. She was humble. She never assumed herself better or smarter than anyone else. She was full of compassion, that she showered on everyone she knew.
Now that I've made it seem as though such an amazing woman could never really exist (although I'm guilty of hyperbole, this is one time that I'm 100% accurate), let me return to my original topic of memories. Why are memories so important to us? Why is it that we hold on to memories so much, build scrapbooks, write journals and biographies? A memory is something that can last long beyond the time of the event, thing, or person contained in it. In a sense, it lends immortality to a person by remembering them forever.
Whether Karen still lives on in some form or another, the important thing is that we remember her. She lives in the memories of those who knew her, those whose lives she touched. We can all be better people for having known her, and we can teach those who come after us about the wonderful person that she was and how we can try to be more like that.
I think this is one of the reasons why the concept of an afterlife is so appealing to us. We see that immortality is virtually possible by living on in the memories of those we leave behind. But, perhaps we want something more tangible. We want to be assured that we will continue to exist, that we will ourselves be immortal. This is a very enticing thought indeed.
Go out and make some happy memories. Be alive, be vibrant, live while the day lasts. Live so that those who do remember you will enjoy those memories and hold on to them dearly, as I hold on to the memories of my lovely bride.