I greatly regret that my grandmother passed away before I was at all satisfied with my understanding of identity, memory, value, and love.
As a result, in my many long moments dwelling on the subject of her death, both when it was imminent and when it was recent, I think more about the general case than the specific.
I think: “What is lost in death, and what lives on?”, when I wish that I would think: “What is lost in my Grandma’s death, and what part of her lives on?”
I ponder: “What is the sadness of losing a loved on?”, when I wish I would ponder: “What is my sadness for having lost my grandmother?”
I wonder: “How can we honor the dead, that we may all extend and enrich our legacies?”, when I wish I would wonder: “How can I honor Janet, such that her legacy is extended and enriched?”
But the truth is that I lack the maturity to fruitfully dwell on the latter questions. I can’t make progress on them.
And still my emotions guide me, slowly but surely, towards an understanding. My emotions are chaotic and unpredictable. They are low-level and they are high-level. They are consistent and they are inconsistent. And, most of all, they come and go.
Perhaps the greatest insight from my limbic system and temporal lobes is just how great the magnitude of one’s effect on the world, society, and one’s family really is. Or rather, just how great an effect Grandma had. And the great mystery is that we can never really understand what that effect is on us, as individuals. Or rather, the effect she had on me.
One thing I do know, at the very least, is that I owe a lot of my sense of humor to my Grandma Janet.