A Group of People

Remember With Me : By @lizdugger

In Memorial Day on May 30, 2011 at 10:52 pm

Every Memory Matters

By Liz Dugger

He didn’t come out and say it. But I think I know what he was hoping when he stopped his car on the road by the graveyard asking, “Do you have somebody here?” I’d just seen him leave flowers by a stone for Memorial Day.

I gave him a quick, assessing glance, masked with a smile.

He was aged, harmless. So I responded with a non-rushed, friendly tone that might prove neighborly kindness isn’t dying with his generation.

“No,” I answered. “We live over there (pointing) and I like to walk this way. How about you? Do you have family here?”

(I was genuinely interested as I’d been watching him in passing and was curious about the story behind the stone he’d been tending to.)

His face showed years of reflection at my question. He looked down and hesitated, carefully savoring the answer. With respect he replied, ‘Yes, my wife is right over there.” He pointed back to where he’d just come from.

This was when I thought he might be thinking something like, “I hope someone will remember with me.” Clearly, I could be the one. I started prompting his memories.

“Oh…I’m so sorry…how long has she been gone?”

For the next few moments, the 21st century slipped to the background. A soft Sunday breeze and simple conversation cleared stress from the air as two worlds crossed a country path. A stranger’s window opened up 89 years of living.

She’s been gone 17 years. Cancer. Pain still showing on his face. Love steering the inflection of his voice.

They’d lived nearby for many years – right over on 65th. He would have preferred being on the river because his career as a Columbia River Captain made him love the water. But she, his beloved wife, wanted to be near their daughter who was just across the way, up Mountain Road. She’d loved this area and their view of the mountain.

(He put the car in park and took his foot off the break.)

When she passed, he subdivided the property – close to 20 acres – into 3.5 acre parcels. He made a chunk of change and found his place on the river. Now, he can see four major mountains instead of just Mt. Hood and loves it there. But he misses her. He’s been alone since his early 70’s.

He admits to getting carried away with the tombstone but couldn’t help it. He wanted to get the details right and ready for the day they would once again share a space. By the time the stone was finished, it’d cost over $8,000.00. If he’d waited a couple of years he probably would have just purchased a flat stone. Something simple. But he comes out regularly to care for the plot, wash the stone, plant flowers. It’s the place he goes to talk to her. Remember.

I listened intently, asking questions, and hoped a car wouldn’t come and rush us along. His heart opened up as he reflected on days of meaning and productivity. I hoped that after our 10 or 15 minute chat he would drive away feeling less alone. A pittance of my time to add meaning to this man’s journey home.

As the Captain drove away, I turned back the direction I’d already walked to get a look at his wife’s stone. His future “home.” I snapped a picture, this day before Memorial Day, in honor of all the people remembering. Whether civilians or servicemen, every memory matters. His memories mattered to me.

We can cherish memories with others. Slices of the past that nourish the future. It’s a simple but profound way to give. Because who knows, you or I might one day be thinking, “I hope somebody will rememberwith me.” A genuine 10-minute talk beside the road might make all the difference, making us feel much less alone.

  1. You brought exquisite beauty to the world by opening your heart and ears! Well done – and thanks for capturing it in words!

  2. Paula, I’m just glad I’m “unhurried” enough to notice. Thank you for the encouraging words!

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