Keeping the memory of the dead alive is exhausting. It involves constantly revisiting the past and trying not to get stuck there while simultaneously not allowing yourself to go too far into the future, or even the present, because that means you're moving in the opposite direction of the memories you're desperately trying to hold on to, of the person that you're trying to hold on to.
Shane, I remember you everyday. I remember phrases you used to say and how you used a fork and knife and chewed your food and the things that scared you the most when you were a kid and what you smelled like and the last time I ever saw your living face and your dead face.
I remember days, conversations, feelings that are stuck in photographs.
I even remember things that never happened; I remember your future for you and what you would be doing right now and the kind of uncle you would be and the stories you would and wouldn't tell about Afghanistan. I remember conversations that we never had and trips that we planned and fights that we would have and advice that you would give me and your wedding and your first child and what you would look like with gray hair and everything else.
There is a corner in my mind that I cleaned up and decorated how I thought that you would like and put you there for safekeeping so that nothing ever happens to you or my memories of you.
I write pieces of memories down in little notebooks and post-its and scraps of paper so that I can prevent them -- prevent you -- from disappearing altogether.
But how long will it last? Paper disintegrates and gets lost. At some point I will likely get lost in my own mind and not be able to find my way back out, like everyone else does when they are at the end of their lives.
And what happens to you then?
There will be a point in history where no one remembers you. No one knows who you are. No one has memories of you. One day dad will die, mom will die, I will die. Every single person who keeps a memory of you in their minds or hearts will die, and we will take you with us.
There are some places where there are stones and on those stones are inscriptions of your name with the dates you were born and died. And that will be all that is left. Names and dates on stones, and nothing more.