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One of my first memories — perhaps my first — is going to the funeral of a relative of my mother. I was probably four at the time. I had never been taken to a funeral before, and I recall my fascinated horror at the body of my distant kin, whom I had barely known before her death.

Her skin had the waxy smoothness that embalming gives it, and I remember wanting to touch it to see if it was as hard as it appeared. Of course that was forbidden. And the stillness! I had never seen anyone lie so still.

Afterward came the burial, and the return of family and friends to their farmhouse, where I roamed the yard trying to understand it all while the grownups sought to comfort her husband, weeping in the parlor. I had rarely seen grownups cry, and that added to the strangeness.

We say, “Some memories last a lifetime,” and “I’ll never forget,” but in reality we know that’s not necessarily true. I’ve seen it in friends and loved ones — with age comes forgetfulness, and memories that were once vivid bleach out and disappear.

That’s part of the impulse to write–to take those memories and put them somewhere that moth and rust do not corrupt.

 

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