i will remember you

Our daughter attended college at a liberal arts school in Maine, a long way from home.  By the end of her first year, she had a new group of friends who have stayed close for more than two decades.

Her graduation weekend included a range of festivities, including a concert put on by the men’s and women’s a cappella groups.  Collegiate a cappella had been around for a while but became very popular in the nineties.

One song that night has stuck with me:

I will remember you.
Will you remember me?
Don’t let your life pass you by,
Weep not for the memories.

Given its popularity, I probably had heard it before, but it hadn’t sunk in — and I couldn’t have told you anything about the song or Sarah McLachlan.

But it made a big impression on me then.  And it comes to mind with regularity — just the refrain and the catchy vocalization interspersed with it.  I’ve never learned the other words.

I don’t know whether our daughter or her friends would use “I Will Remember You” as the music for a slide show of their time together at the college on the hill.  It’s hard for those in one generation to understand the tastes and meanings of those that follow.  But I have to think it would be perfect.

“I will remember you” goes without saying for deep relationships.  We couldn’t forget those who are close to us if we tried.

Others flow in and out of our lives.  We don’t stay in one place or keep the same job or pursue one hobby forever, and neither do they.  And so the cast of characters changes.  I saw a phrase in a book a few weeks ago — “he saw all his past lives” — and mine started flashing in front of me.  You remember the people who defined those chapters.

Some of those who are lodged in our memory made an impression in a very short time.  Maybe you only knew them for a year — or spent a few minutes or hours with them one day long ago.  You don’t always know what will be meaningful in the future.

The waters of memory can be murky.  I once read a book called The Seven Sins of Memory.  Those sins range from transience (the degradation of memory over time) to persistence (the stickiness of memories that you might want to forget), plus absent-mindedness, blocking (that name on the tip of your tongue), misattribution, suggestibility, and bias.

Details can be hard to remember, especially as the years pile up, but you can usually recall how someone made you feel.  There’s a lesson in that.

Almost anything can trigger a flashback:  a familiar smell, a clip from an old movie, a song, something found in a drawer, reading a name that reminds you of someone else.  At times I have seen a person that looks just like a friend or coworker from decades before — but it couldn’t be them, because they hadn’t aged.  The lookalike appeared across time.

We never know when that last encounter with someone will be, unless we are visiting them when they are on their deathbed — or they are visiting us on ours.

In contrast, our day-to-day interactions are often perfunctory or hampered by the distractions of our lives.  In retrospect those experiences are thinner than we would have wanted had we known that we wouldn’t be together again.

My fiftieth high school reunion is in a few days (which amazes me).

We will reminisce about events from years ago and remember the classmates who are no longer with us.  Back to a place that shaped our lives, embracing memories of the times we had together.

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