Saturday, October 18, 2014

Nota Bene: the Value of Voicemail and the Ghosts Around You

The last post I made here, Qarafa, was started a good number of days ago. There was (as there always is) head scratching and pondering about what to write. Then, I didn't finish it because the free verse I included below the narrative was pretty lousy. It's still lousy, but I had a few "what the hell/nothing ventured/who gives a damn" moments on Thursday and punched the publish button.

During the time that post was perking in Draft Purgatory ("Come for the writing angst, stay for the editing demons!"), there were two postsone on Gizmodo and another on io9that resonated with me and what was on my mind in Qarafa. The Gizmodo post, You're Wrong About Voicemail by Leslie Horn, dealt with the issue of a sudden family death, and the fact that voicemail—seemingly nearly universally loathed by folks younger than 30 or 35, if many online discussions are to be believed—might offer you peace, solace, and a connection to someone gone while you are grieving their loss. That hit me in the gut, as I've been there, hearing my mom's voicemails, or those from my late sister and brother. Made me cry. Yep, Gizmodo made me cry. There were some wonderful comments on that piece. (Just bypass the people who only tapped their keyboards to say "I still hate voicemail." They missed the point, big time.)

The other piece, We Are All Living Among the Dead by io9's Annalee Newitz, covered territory very familiar to me: that, as we continue on in this life, the dead in our lives
—our family, our friends, others who impact our existence—multiply. How we see them, how we honor them, how we cope with their loss and their intangible presence... it's something I think about a lot.

One of the key takeaways from all these good words (and my own mediocre ones!) is this: document the living daylights out of your family's stories. Take pictures, take video, take audio. I did questionnaires for my siblings years ago, although only a couple ever filled them out. Take pictures with your family and friends. I think I'll take a picture with the Sasquatch this weekend, whether he wants that or not. Most of our visual memories are 27, 28, 29 year old college photos. Just get your stories in whatever way rings your chimes. It's worth it. Look, none of us knows how long we have on this planet. So, be a story collector. Your future will thank you.

Anyway (she says, carefully stepping down from that overused soapbox)...

I just wanted to bring your attention to these two lovely, well-written, thoughtful, and touching pieces. I really get them. I hope you do, too. I like a little psychic synchronicity. Maybe it's the autumn making us all more thoughtful. In his hilarious piece on the seasonal bane of pumpkin spice, John Oliver describes autumn as "the best season" and then notes that fall foliage is a reminder of our own mortality. Watching the leaves furiously roll and turn from my window here, I totally get it.

Enjoy good reading, especially from people who have (or are) better editors than I. Peace out, autumn people.

Vintage tractors on the lawn of a little house in Riverside, Iowa,
future birthplace of James T. Kirk. I took this shot on the Iowa road trip
my sisters and I took with our brother's ashes in 2006.

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