There is loss and there is tragedy and in remembering them there are memories; memories which are bright and memories which are shattering.
They pull you backwards, dragging your mind into the unclear waters of your own history where everything is fragmented, as history so inevitably is. And the pieces you see, floating with tragic indifference, draw you in. The first touch – Grandpa kissing you goodnight in the green chair of your old living room. A second touch – the pale pink flowers that bloomed together to create a smiling salmon because Uncle Kenny knew it was Grandpa’s favourite thing to have with chips. Another touch – Nana with a black labrador puppy; brand new, innocent and there to fill the house’s sudden emptiness. A final touch – Nana’s last ‘I love you’, an exhausted whisper that felt powerful in the unrepentant knowledge of its own finality.
You start finding tragedies at every corner; your aunt’s illness, the passing away of your favourite actor, the train ticket home for a friend who returns to say goodbye. It’s starting to seem as if everyone is dying, like suddenly it’s autumn and aged leaves are falling – dry and discoloured. Like suddenly it’s winter and even the leaves that shine green fall, buried under a coffin of snow. The snow burns, cold and relentless and there’s an eternal sunset in your chest that dims you.
But time stretches on, old wounds heal and scars blend with the skin that is tougher for its suffering. Maybe people grow ready for death — I hope so. Maybe it’s okay, because maybe they know. Maybe they know that they can never really die because aren’t they everywhere? One – in the birthday cards they wrote with writing that holds smiles in the chicken-scratched lines and love in the loops of the ‘l’s and ’g’s. Two – in the upper most window of that restaurant and in the smell that comes through the open door. Three – in a young heart when the muscle tightens at the wilting freesias below the words ‘rest in peace’.
So when I get scared that my sun has dipped too far below the horizon for it to ever rise again, I think how every atom that our universe began with has been used and reused through the millennia that has passed to today. An atom on my nose has come from the glistening litters of a supernova. The same atom will someday find its way through the soil of my final ceiling and sew itself onto the seed of a sunflower. And when the blossomed flower turns to face the light I will feel the sun within me burst into purples and pinks and yellows in the kind of sunrise you see on the clearest, crispest, December days. It will uncork my bones and pour colour into them until I shine all bright and wonderful hues as if someone has cracked a glow stick in my heart.
And everyone I ever loved will remember that the sunflower is my favourite flower and, unaware of the cosmic exchange that has taken place, will still think of me at the sight of the golden petals.
Memories are forever and our stories will be reread long after living ceased to be possible.