We all die twice. The first death is the one we all know. You stop. The lights go out. They pack you up and/or wrap you up and unless you are Anna Nicole Smith, your body is disposed of in a few days (I am not going to get into whether we have a soul, a next life etc). But the memory of you stays. The second death comes when the last person that can remember you dies. Yes, there may still be people that know about you (especially if you are famous) but they do not remember you. I am a student of my family’s history. For some reason, I got interested in genealogy about five years go and I was able to trace my family back in some cases to the middle of the 18th century in the process I learned a lot about history and about families and even genetics. There is line in my family of musicians especially piano players like me. I was shocked to learn that a distant cousin plays jazz piano and started the jazz festival in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Unfortunately, cancer runs in the same line. I am named after my great grandfather, Abraham Levy who died in
San Francisco in 1928. When his daughter, my grandmother died, in 1999, I thought that he died for the second time with her. But then a few years ago I found the nephew of Abraham’s wife and my great grandmother. He is in his 90s and still very much together. When I called him on the phone and he finally figured out who I was, I will never forget him saying “Uncle Abe” as he described to me his encounters as a young boy with my great grandfather.
One of the things I have learned about remembering those who have gone is preserving their voices. Most of us have photos of our family members and friends that have passed on. And if we are lucky, we might have handwritten letters (I have many but this is something that will not exist for future generations because of email) but how many have capture the voice of those that we love. I can still hear my mother’s voice, my grandmother’s voices and even the voice of one my great grandmothers but I can not pass this on. When one of my friends died young with small children, I called his assistant immediately and asked her to preserve his voice message greeting just to make sure that his daughters could her their father speak. Now with digital video, I think we will have much more to remember and pass on. I am lucky to have a film of the wedding of my parents in 1944. It is in color but no sound. Still it is amazing to see every one so young. I made copies of it and found as many of the children of the people in the wedding as possible and gave them copies.
And there is an other digital divide. I think the most of us in the develop world will have some information about us survive maybe for ever. Much of our lives recorded in some digital form and that is growing. But we can reach back into our family histories to document the stories of our family and put that on some system like www.ancestry.com and they too will survive. Finally, I can not say why I wrote this today. But the fact that I did will probably be preserved.