subject line: sweet 16.

 
Yesterday was my little sister’s birthday. She would be 16.
Her name was Alli- spelled with an ‘i’ at the end, just like my name, as I insisted.
I’ve spent most of my life choosing not to remember. Or maybe I only abandoned the particular intentionality of remembrance. Replaced by tears wiped quickly away, and a heart allowed to ache- but only for a moment.
Where, when, how was it that I began to embrace the illusory notion that failure to forget is weakness?
I don’t know why I feel compelled to remember you, 16 years later, when myth has all but overcome my memory of your brief, beautiful life.
Well, perhaps I do. I found a letter a few months ago. A letter I wrote you at 8 years old, after finding out you weren’t coming home from the hospital.
Sometimes, I wonder about the etiology of human consciousness. I cannot recall who I was in years prior- how I perceived the world and what I valued. I have an unsettling sense that my consciousness has somehow transformed beyond recognition. But the letter I wrote at 8 years old is the same I’d write you now- aside from two misspellings, which are forgivable, given my age.
Anyway, reading the letter, I’m struck by how much my eight-year-old self loved you, the sister I never really knew. How, even then, I was so at peace with the inevitability of life and death, of all that transpired in and beyond this world. Content with what I knew could never be.
In my letter, I lament not being able to play with you when you grow up or swing you on the swing. Reading those words now, the awe-inspiring nature of human existence leveled me. My soul wept for the years I refused to remember you, and to use that history, however mythical, to inspire full living and loving.
I think of the fullness, pre-empted, in the lives of those I love. About all of us… flailing, trying to survive. Momentarily, I envy your ability to transcend this portion of the human experience. Though, it is possible you experienced this all in some microcosmic way while machines and tubes fought to keep you alive.
But, yes, really- what is the point of remembering? Why is it discouraged? As if we could, by pretending, make historical context irrelevant. Nietzsche proposes one of the more interesting theories on this- asserting that the plastic force of humanity is determined by our unique ability to remember and forget. The ‘historical’ and ‘unhistorical’ are equally important if one is to use history for life.
It’s an art- this being alive thing.
But why not remember? Why not harness the power yielded by history? Such a process is tedious and painful, evoking a natural sense of aversion in the human spirit.
Yet, history will not be made weaker in its influence by refusing to acknowledge it. And we’re still left to answer what it means to use history in a way that yields life.
Do I need a reason to remember you? Must I rationalize and derive meaning from this compilation to remember? The longing in the core of my being speaks louder than reason. It is enough- worth preserving in its most unknowable form.
I miss you, dear one. I’ll be forever missing you.