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"Remember Me"

Written by Adam Knight

Photo by Lauren Duffie (Edinburgh 2011)

Has it happened yet? Maybe last week, or last month? Maybe it happened some day last year when I was on vacation?

This is the line of questioning that runs through my head a lot these days, as I wonder whether a day has gone by when I didn’t think of Davey.

I picked up a book a few years ago called “The AfterGrief” by Hope Edelman. I tried to start it, but couldn’t get through the first chapter. This was 2021, less than a year after Davey’s passing, and I was very much still in “The NowGrief”, not yet ready for what might come after. Three years later, I find myself forlorn that the great sadness has lost some of its intensity. Grief has been, for me, a gift; a way to remind myself how much he and our friendship meant. And now my fear is that I will one day go through a day, a week, a month without giving even a stray thought to my friend, my friend who texted me nearly every day.

This fear is compounded by the fact that, as I write this, my amazing mother-in-law is terminally ill. My wife and I and our family are in the midst of a new grief. Does one need to release one grief in order to hold another? 

One of the most moving and terrifying moments in Shakespeare’s Hamlet is Act One, scene five – the scene where Hamlet takes a walk with his father’s ghost. The Ghost, after demanding that his son revenge his “most foul and unnatural murder,” makes one final plea before leaving the stage: “Remember me.” 

Shakespeare was tapping into a desire that runs from Dante all the way back to the ancient Greeks. Many of the unfortunate souls encountered in The Inferno beg to be remembered to their friends who are still kicking it back in Florence – the thought of being remembered seems to provide some succor to their pitiful state. Meanwhile the Greeks spun epic poems which kept alive the memory of great heroes. Herodotus literally invented the subject of history “so that human achievements may not be forgotten in time.”

Davey left behind many achievements. He left a book, Hope in the Time of Chemo; he left plays, such as A Sudden Spontaneous Event; he left videos of his solo work and standup comedy. However, since he was at heart a theatre artist, the great majority of his artistic accomplishments cannot be experienced again. I have a recording of his Hamlet performance that I still can’t watch, lest it be a too-rough echo of that beautiful performance that existed in that perfect, ephemeral moment. Davey and I used to say that making theatre was “like writing in the sand.” Now I find myself wishing to hold back the waves.

There’s a scene near the end of Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary that I think about a lot. The 1860s were the early days of photography, and there were all these glass-plate photographic negatives with images of soldiers. After the war, many of these panes of glass were repurposed as windows for greenhouses. Over the years, the glass became more and more transparent as the anonymous soldiers faded away in the sun. It’s a beautiful and complex image, how time might heal the pain of a great tragedy while also erasing the stories of those who lived and breathed and fought and died. 

It makes me think of the keepsakes I hold onto of mine and Davey’s friendship. What will be memorialized? What will be relegated to the greenhouse of my life?

I think I am ready now to read that book.


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