Methodius Hayes (methodius) wrote,
Methodius Hayes

LiveJournal, DeadJournal: memory and mortality

Over the last couple of years I've been transcribing my old hard copy diaries on to computer, and recently I've been doing the 1960 diary entries. I noticed a marked change in the way I wrote my diary after meeting Margaret Alison. She came to a church picnic with a friend, and after meeting her a couple of times I fell in love with with her. The entries in my diary became more verbose and detailed, and there was also a marked increase in recording of parish gossip about love affairs, and the world outside seemed to disappear. It was in some ways like reading about someone else, a different person.

Before meeting Margaret, I had written about quite a lot about events in the world around. Several entries referred to such things as the Clydesdale Colliery disaster, but the Sharpeville shootings a couple of months later got only passing references. The mood of transcription
changed, too. The details are rather rather hard to transcribe afterwards because they seem so petty, dwelling on quite trivial details, yet they recall Margaret as a living person, as she was then. She comes across in the diary entries as a real teenager, and of course it was a love-struck teenager writing all that stuff.

And then every now and then I stop and think: But I'm writing about someone who is dead. Her bones are rotting in the ground, or her ashes are circulating somewhere in the stratosphere, yet in transcribing I recall here as a real living person, as she was then. I wonder if anyone else who did not know her, on reading it, would get a similar sense of her as a person, or is it is just something that happens to me, because the diary is an aide memoire? I picture her riding to church on the back of her brother's motor scooter, riding sidesaddle because she was stiff and sore after her first encounter with an ice rink the previous evening. Or with her pet rooster, her puppy, her pet snake.

Is it worth transcribing at all, since it probably won't mean anything to anyone who didn't know her. But it is an aid to my memory, and perhaps that is what we mean by memory eternal. She lives on, in a way, until the last person who remembers her in life has died.

My love for her was hopeless. She was in love with someone else, who was not interested in her. We became good friends, but then lost touch when I went away to study, and lived in other places. She became gay. One day, soon after I had acquired a cell phone, I found myself near the place where she had lived when I had known her, and tried the last phone number I had for her. A stranger answered the phone, but said yes, she had lived there, but she had been killed in a motorbike accident a few years before. She died as she had lived -- she was always having motorbike accidents, and when I knew her had spent several months in hospital with broken limbs as a result. So I can't go back and talk about old times. But, having written them down, the memories are far more real.

Our priest, who is from Romania, says that the Romanian service books are much more detailed in their prayers for the dead. They enumerate all the ways in which people can die, those who have died from bee stings, from being eaten by various kinds of animals. And sometimes he mentions "those for whom no one is praying any more".
Tags: diaries and journals, friends, manx, memory, mortality, old friends

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