Those You’ve Known

2011-4-3-Pentagon-Arlington-TGR 118e

Goodbyes are impossible.

We can say the words “goodbye” and want to believe they are real, but they aren’t true because things never go away entirely. Nothing is ever truly lost in life. It may disappear in the actual, physical sense, but it never truly goes away thanks to a mental process that exists in all of us whether we like it or not.

Memory.

Our memories are basically the imprint of an idea, experience, person, or thing that we have met in our lives. They are what keep those things from every really going away. They remain in existence as brief movies in our minds, played willingly or otherwise. Whether we like it or not, we remember and keep things alive as long as we can recall their existence.

We’ve dedicated an entire holiday to showing reverence to the memories of those who have left this world.

Tomorrow is the United States holiday Memorial Day. Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those individuals in the military who have fallen in the service of their country. We honor and mourn those who have given their lives for our freedom and protection.

It’s even more significant in that we don’t personally remember all those who have fallen, but we mourn them just the same. Memory, even when it is only remembered through given information from historians and texts, is a damn powerful thing. It doesn’t even have to be something that personally affects us in a direct way.

When I was about sixteen, my high school marching band went on a band trip to Virginia. The memory of whatever event or parade we went down for has become a foggy mess. However, in an attempt to put a little education into our trip, our school also sent us to a famous memorial to gain a little education on American history.

Arlington National Cemetery. The cemetery of soldiers. It’s a national site that gathers thousands upon thousands of people to visit and pay tribute to the fallen warriors who defended the country with their very lives. If I had to describe this place, I would only offer one single word.

Quiet.

Blame the lack of any real sound in the air or the somber masks on everyone’s faces as they moved about the paths surrounding the white tombstones, but I was unable to really move or make a sound myself as I mindlessly took one step at a time across the paths. It’s hard to explain, but I somehow felt the weight of the ghosts and memories of individuals long since past. I had to hand my camera to a friend to capture the physical memories of the place as the other memories proved too powerful for me to do anything other than walk one foot in front of the other.

The quiet memory of thousands of lost lives whose ghosts haunt the fields of this Virginia cemetery is overwhelming and scary. As I sat amongst the crowd watching the back and forth march of the solider guarding the tomb of the unknown solider,  I came to one very simple conclusion.

Memory is insanely powerful.

Nothing is ever lost in this world. The picture may fade over time, but it still remains in some form. Somewhere, in the hidden in the depths of your mind, it exists as a welcome or unwelcome stain.  We keep these memories alive.

We do not forget.

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