I know, when you first read the title you probably paused a second wondering if it is a mistake. Well, no, it isn’t a mistake. It’s just that it struck me recently what we do to keep alive our memories of family or friends who are no longer in our life – they may be gone but not forgotten. Yet, when it comes to those still with us, well, it’s very easy to slip into a not gone but forgotten mentality without realizing it … until it’s too late.
This may sound a tad macabre, however, I’m not necessarily talking only of death as being the reason someone is no longer in our life. Now, I must admit that it was when thinking about the way my mother’s death initially influenced the way I thought about her and how I remembered our relationship. Mom had been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in March of 1995 and lived 6 months. It was during that time I got to know the woman I had called mom. In one of our conversations, mom looked at me and said she was afraid that we would forget about her after she was gone.
That conversation has stayed with me all these years, so that, when I find my thoughts have turned to mom I will often say to myself, “see, you may be gone but you’re not forgotten.”
It was during such a moment of reflection that I started thinking about the extent, the emotional effort, we expend in order to keep alive memories of those we love but are no longer with us. It dawned on me that, sadly, it’s often the reverse that is true when it comes to the people in our life right now … we get so busy with all things called life that before we know it we’ve allowed friends, even family, to become a part of an ever evolving and expanding group of forgotten people; the “Not gone but forgotten” ones of our life.
Day in, day out, we rush through jam packed hours only to get bogged down in what is right in front of us and feeling there is very little to give to anyone else. When it comes to communicating with friends and family the most we can do is shoot off a quick email – well, actually, that is archaic, now it seems writing an email has become too exhausting, so, a text is the preferred route of communication. I think texting has replaced emails for much the same reason that people prefer using those little note cards to regular writing paper … small space = less to write. Anyway, the point is we start losing touch with all but a few close friends and family.
We can be oblivious to transitioning friends into the not gone but forgotten slot, until, that is, something happens either to them or in their life. Then we start slapping our forehead – our perception has been altered – while reflecting on all the reasons we had been friends. Thinking about the friendship dislodges memories that had been pushed to the back of the mind and that rekindles the desire to call the person on the phone or, now hold on, we may even be moved to get in the car and, ahem, d-r-i-v-e over to see them in person.
Okay, perhaps I am being a tad facetious, though the above remarks were meant in a jocose vein. I mean, I can’t help but think it a bit funny, well, okay, mostly sad, in the way we will knock ourselves out to connect with an old friend with whom we’ve lost regular contact because something has happened to them or in their life. It’s as though we see the value in something when there’s a threat of losing it or when it has already been lost. Unfortunately, for me, it was experiencing the latter that forced a re-evaluation of the value I placed on family and friends.
I never realized how much I took for granted when it came to talking to my mother – all the conversations we should have had but, instead, allowed “all things life” to get in the way … besides, there was always going to be tomorrow. All the plans, all the times we said we were going to go out for lunch, have that heart to heart conversation, go shopping and, if not tomorrow, well, someday. Of course, when our tomorrow came it brought with it a whopping diagnosis of recurring metastatic breast cancer and so ‘someday’ never came.
I no longer assume I have someday, or even tomorrow, to spend a little time with someone I love. In fact, the lessons from that experience have expanded into many areas of my life because it has altered my perception of the people in my life, or, more to the point, my perception of their value as human beings – and that, in turn, impacts what I am motivated to do for the friendship.
Of course, that’s not to say there won’t be times you can’t and/or don’t connect with family or friends for one reason or another. Besides, if you’re like me, having quiet, alone time is a must have every now and then. But, in general, I have learned the importance of letting people know what they mean to me, to my life. Though illness has impacted what I can do for my friends and family I can still make sure they know they’re being thought about … and most definitely not forgotten.