If you know someone personally and they become famous, you feel as if you own part of that person. If someone you know makes the eleven oíclock news, you might think you have something like bragging rights. Itís not exactly the same as reflected glory; in fact, itís much more from the heart. If youíve spent time with someone or shared a closeness with them, itís as if thereís a part of that person that belongs to you alone.
And itís somewhat the same when someone dies. You take your memories to the funeral or memorial service, and no matter how many other people are there, none of them has had exactly the same experience with the person being remembered. Everyone has the right to claim a part of the memory almost as if it were personal property.
Thatís sort of how I felt at the memorial service Mom, Suzanne and I went to today. This was a ceremony to remember someone I knew almost all my life, a woman who was one of Momís neighbors and best friends for many years, the widow of my dadís best childhood friend. Thatís a wealth of personal connection, and yet we were just a few small threads in the fabric of her life.
She had five children, and dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and countless friends. People told stories of how they knew her and what she had done for them, and they were all different, but they were all the same in the sense that everyone remembered her warmth, her smile, her tirelessness in doing for others. And her cooking — thatís another thing almost everyone mentioned.
At first, standing along the wall in the crowded cemetery chapel, I felt a little selfish about the way I was remembering her. I knew her in a different way from all of these people. And yet, thatís the point, really. Yes, she knew me. But she had room in her heart for an overflowing roomful of family and friends, and many more who couldnít make it.