essays kaddish in two-part harmony

the end of memory

It’s a very simple proposition: what if we forget?

What if we forget the details?

What if we forget their faces?

What if they become reductionist cartoons, selective memory, fixed inside our stories, unverified by outside confirmation?

What if they were not at all as we remember them?

What if we got the stories wrong?

What if they’re just cringing in their graves that we speak of them at all?

What if they still have consciousness?

What if there is reincarnation (or whatever) after all?

What if they don’t forgive us?

What if we can’t forgive them?

What if we’ve nothing left to say?

What if there’s plenty to say, but we can’t say it, or can’t say it out loud?

What if we want to preserve memory but are afraid to write it?

What if we obliterate their memory?

What if we leave their graves unmarked?

What if we say what we really feel?

What if we keep our feelings to ourselves?

What if we don’t say kaddish?

What if we don’t say kaddish anymore?

What if we forget them?

What if we are in turn forgotten?

What if the living just get on with living?

What if we don’t?

I fear the end of memory. Fear the letting go the last story. Fear losing their faces, holding conversation with them, remembering their smells, their laughter, their words, their love, their lack of love — whatever it is, I fear it.

And I don’t fear it at all.

By mira

Mira Z. Amiras is Professor of Comparative Religious Studies and founder of the Middle East Studies Program at San Jose State University. She is past-president of the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness, and has served on the Executive Council of the American Anthropological Association. She is co-founder, with Ovid Jacob, of Beit Malkhut, a study group in Jewish sacred text. She's most attached to the creatures of her body and her household — first and foremost, her kids, of course: Michael and Rayna — and then the other folks large and small of various species, including Roshi and Vlad, a whole lot of hummingbirds, the old parrot who lives next door, and a beautiful garden that does what it will.

2 replies on “the end of memory”

“What if” I ask — which is followed by many hypothetical chronologies.

I don’t ask “why” — which too easily could be followed by gnashing of teeth and tearing out of hair.

I like the ‘W’ — I wish I heard it more often in the classroom. What are we, after all, if we don’t question?

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