Thursday, September 14, 2017

Poetry Friday: Forget Me Not

I have been thinking a lot lately about forgetting, and especially about forgetting people, and being forgotten by other people.  I kept thinking about a line from a poem, which I remembered as something like: "Better to forget me and smile than to remember and be sad."

"Wow," I thought, "I'd rather be remembered, even if it caused some sadness."

I'm not talking just about dying, either.  I'm talking about living a life where you constantly have to say goodbye, and wondering if those people forget you, if it's out of sight, out of mind.  Fearing that it is.  Feeling that being forgotten means you don't exist. 

I thought the person who wrote that line must be very selfless, and I wondered if I could ever be that selfless, to wish to be completely forgotten, to wish happiness for the people who used to love me instead of a tiny memory of me that could make them sad. 

Until I looked up the poem.  Then I found that I'd been remembering it wrong, and that Christina Rossetti felt just as I did about being remembered.  The title of the poem is "Remember."  And that line I was quoting referred to a situation "if you should forget me for a while and afterwards remember."

Here's the whole poem:

by Christina Rossetti

Remember me when I am gone away,
         Gone far away into the silent land;
         When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
         You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
         Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
         And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
         For if the darkness and corruption leave
         A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
         Than that you should remember and be sad.

Whether I'm alive or dead, being forgotten seems like a terrible fate to me.  I want to be remembered.  It's OK to forget for a while; I don't want anybody to be miserable, I'm not asking for perpetual mourning.  But neither do I want to cease to exist on earth in the eternal way that will happen when nobody remembers me any more.  I know it will happen someday, but meanwhile, I want to be remembered.  It makes me feel better to know that Christina Rossetti wanted the same thing.

Michelle has the roundup this week.


Kay said...

Such a poignant poem. I agree, I hope those I love do remember me--with more gladness than sadness.

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

This post hit home with me, Ruth. In sixth grade and in a new school, I came back to visit my fifth grade teacher. I don't know if I looked very different or what, but he didn't remember who I was and I was crushed. I'm sure that incident was the cause of my generally thinking that most people WILL forget me. It's only a matter of time. At least it's nice to know that I am not alone in wanting to be remembered despite my somewhat pessimistic outlook.

Linda B said...

I've not thought about it this way, but that no matter the sad times remembered, I still remember those loving times with those who've passed while I lived. Now as I think of myself, I feel comforted by the poem, too, Ruth, hoping some minute in someone's memory has left a piece of me. I'm glad that you found the poem spoke your own desires.

Brenda at FriendlyFairyTales said...

I'm content that my children will remember me, and perhaps I will leave some words behind that will matter to someone. I don't think the living should grieve when they are joyful or hug sadness to themselves. I keep my mother's picture, and I think of her every day. But not in a sad way. In an I-miss-her way.

Molly Hogan said...

Your post left me thinking of remembrance and mourning and life and loss. After I read it, it occurred to me that perhaps the fear of being forgotten is a reason why we mark graves. I've always felt that graves were for the living--a physical place to go and "connect" or mourn. Now I wonder if we carve our names into stone so that those who come after us will at least, perhaps, say our names and wonder about our lives. A ghost of remembrance? And perhaps writing serves a similar's a way to leave our words mind is wandering but you have me wondering.

Irene Latham said...

Ruth, one of the surprising things for me after losing my father, has been how much I need for HIM to be remembered. It's been important to me to find ways for him to live on in this world, to create reasons for people to say his name and remember his life. Thanks for the Rosetti poem. xo

Tara said...

As long as my children remember me, I think I will be happy...but who knows? The Rossetti poem certainly makes one think a bit deeper about remembering and forgetting, and the power, really, in both.

Linda Mitchell said...

What a lovely and thought provoking post. I think I am ok with being forgotten. Once my work about the earth is finished I will leave the next generations to do theirs. I'm pretty certain that my children will remember me. But, my mother passed away while my children were young....some too young to remember her. And, I remind them of her sometimes. But, it's OK if they carry on without memory. I really think my mom is with them in other ways that memory cannot capture. I'm not sure I ever thought about this before. Thanks for the prompt.

michelle kogan said...

A lovely bitter-sweet poem by Christina Rossetti. My thoughts on this would echo some of Irene's above, for I lost my father last October. Though he is gone in body I carry him with me in my memory and remembrances all the time. Thanks for this poem Ruth and your thoughts on it.