“When an old person dies, we lose a library,” is a loosely stated African proverb. How true. How much that person has read throughout life and digested from fun fiction to telling biographies to shocking newspaper headlines.
Digested but remembered? Who knows what we retain that is important to us as best we can and hope to never forget. I’ll spend days trying to recall a star’s name from a movie even if I could easily “Google” it. (It’s not a verb, by the way.)
The lost library is the memories that go inside the casket along with the person. Family names and episodes that helped form that person, that personality; the context of that person’s life. We can look at charts of our genealogy along with arrows stretching up and down but it’s worthless without the narratives that embodied those faceless names. It is the stories – funny, tragic, circumstantial that create a personality, a person.
The library may have been years of reading Reader’s Digest because time was precious or it may have contained philosophy, theology even if the reader didn’t understand it all. Periodicals may have been what the pastor recommended and may have also included ones he didn’t recommend. Those were the fun ones. A movie line I like has Sean Connery as the mentor with his student nearby. He’s reading the “National Enquirer” and the student asks, “You’re such a brilliant writer, why do you bother that rag?” Sean quietly says, “The New York Times is for dinner, the Enquirer is for dessert.”
Losing a life, especially one that has aged, loses so much of what was experienced, read, said and unsaid. I smile to myself at funerals wishing that during the vigil someone could place a cup under the deceased ears. From the ears would flow forth all that that person heard through his/her many living years. This information is to be shared with all the survivors – no matter the content, it is the library of life that is being preserved.
To me that sure beats a family chart with arrows pointing in different directions.