Sunday, February 11, 2007

Memories, changing and the same

I was talking with a guy, during a break at work (between depositions actually) about personal narratives. He had problems with the changes in focus and details in the narratives of Joseph Smith. His feeling is that things could not have happened or the narrative would not have differences.

But it made me think of the differences in the narratives I have in my life. Robin's death, for example, was a life changing event. Yet, do I tell the story the same way every time? Do I focus on the same details? Perhaps how the responders asked me questions, like my eye color, that I couldn't answer (I started to get ready to pull out an eye so I could see the color and answer the question). That was a significant event for me, yet I've never mentioned it before (or written about it, though I think about it from time to time when thinking about her death). Does that mean that the death never happened and I'll turn around and find her eating breakfast with Rachel?

No, it just means that when asked about the event, depending on who I am talking to or why I am writing about it, I may mention some details and compress or skip others. The intensity of it all sometimes overwhelms memory as well and I'll forget the day or the year. Seems something I could never forget, but I do, it is overwhelming. Eventually I remember again, or read again, refreshing the dates.

With Jessica's death, the narrative changed as I understood the cause of her death and the events more and more. It was too much to deal with, the death of my first and oldest child, nothing like I had ever experienced before. But that doesn't mean she didn't die either or that the experience was not intense beyond words. Reality is not so simple.

Well, two birthdays to go, Valentines week is always difficult, starting around the 26th of December, then the 26th of January, then to the 16th of February. But oh, if making those things not have happened was so simple as the fact that my narratives are not always verbatim the same.


Téa said...

Thanks for this beautiful explanation and faith affirming application about the ways our personal narratives work. I'd never thought of it in quite such clear and concrete terms before.

I hope this week will be as pleasant as possible for you.

Barb said...

I know there are many ways to piece together our events. As I have started writing more, I can see how emphasis can very easily change.

Maybe this is wrong of me to say, but opinions of people make me scared of jury by peers. They seem so convinced of knowing what is in a person's head and heart. This may be a different topic, but what you said brought to mind a video that was shown in court of a mother having a party for her daughter who died at her grave sight. I think she had silly strings and talked in a happy tone. I seem to recall seeing footage leading up to the grave and how she seemed more somber. I recall someone who viewed the footage saying of the mother who had been accused in her daughter's death that the mother's jovial behavior at the graveside was some type of proof of her guilt. However, a person with a small amount of knowledge of grief know that people all grieve differently. In addition, the mother said she was trying to be positive for her baby and that seems plausible for me. I am not saying that I know whether she was guilty or not. It scares me though when people seem to have such trouble distinguishing inferences, however faulty from facts. In another jury case, some medical testimony was given and a woman was holding out when a member of the jury who I do not believe to be an expert in the medical field basically saying that the evidence was there. This is not to say that judges are not equally biased at times.

We should be thinking individuals. However, we have to always realize that our logic is not always the truth. Or as one of the missionary old missionary discussions said, "human wisdom can never lead to a full understanding of eternal truths."

annegb said...

I've thought the very same thing about Joseph Smith's story. The significant facts are always the same.

I've found, as well, that people remember things differently. People at the same event.

As for your feelings about this time of the year, I feel that way about my birthday. I remember James sending me a wonderful gift and card. I remember talking to him. I quite hate my birthday, but I suffer in silence because it bums out my family.

By the way, Stephen, I am taking Cymbalta and feeling better than I've felt since I was a senior in high school, tragedy and trouble notwithstanding. Now that I'm feeling better, I realize how truly depressed I was.

You know, Barb, I was sort of like the woman you describe--my emotions were all over the planet. Although I find Anna Nicole Smith and her priorities repulsive, I totally understood her grief at her son's death and her weird behavior.

I feel so sorry for her that she had no one to guide or strengthen or validate her through that. Only leeches. Truly, there but for the grace of God go I.

Proud Daughter of Eve said...

Deep and moving point well expressed, Stephen.