I spent a little while recently contemplating life after my death. The lives of others, that is. I have no illusion about my lights staying on in some parallel universe. When the lights go out, they go out. This looking to the future was prompted by some legal eagles of my acquaintance in Carlow who persuaded me to register a will during lockdown. It didn't take long to sort out where to leave my worldly possessions. But what was to be done with 'me' after my lights go out? I had an idea, so I thought I had better write it down.
I have a very clear memory of being on the Bateaux Verts many summers ago doing the 20-minute journey across the bay from Saint Maxime to St Tropez in the south of France. It was a Saturday morning and we were going over to walk the market and probably buy nothing. It is a nice way to spend a morning. You can have very sticky, very expensive hot chocolate at the port and look at the rich people who rent/own the yachts. Ivana Trump sat beside me once. Myself and my companion chatted about her 'as Gaeilge'.
Halfway across the bay, the captain stopped the boat and announced that there was a funeral party on board and that they were going to take a minute to spread the ashes of a loved one on the bay. I thought this was a great idea for my final resting place and have never had a better idea since. Some years later, I announced this to my extended family and was met with horror. This was not because of my request. They shrieked, "but you weren't even on the boat. We told you that story." Apparently my very clear memory just did not happen.
I am always wary of memory. When people recount to me a 'he said' and then 'I said' story, I usually take it with a pinch of salt. I know it is being reconstructed, no matter what they tell me. I often wish I could take out a recording and play it the way Woody Allen pulled Marshall McLuhan out of the queue in Annie Hall. It is just that no one can remember anything verbatim. They remember in a way that suits them. Things get modified along the way with each retelling.
I have a scar on the fourth finger on my left hand. It was a childhood accident. We were on the slipway in Dunmore East harbour after a day on the beach. My father thought I was in the car and shut the door just as I was trying to get in. The door closed on my finger. I have a clear memory of my crushed finger with the bone exposed. Only problem is it never happened. There was a small incident at the car but my father spotted me in time and I barely got a bruise. It was cured by an ice cream. Where the scar came from, I am still not sure, but it was not as I, so clearly, remember it.
Several people have told me that they had very vivid and unusual dreams in lockdown. Old memories surfaced. I suspect it was because we had a lot of time to rummage around our brain without the usual distractions of commuting and socialising.
I spent a few hours looking at photos from the pre-digital days. They jogged a lot of stories and reconstructions of what was going on at the time. If my nocturnal mental activity was anything to go by, a lot of things were taken out of one memory box and put in another one.
I enjoy rummaging through my memories. But I am never all that confident that my memory coincides with what actually happened. With one exception. I still think I was on that boat, whatever other people say. And if I wasn't, I now know I will be one day. Not too soon, I hope. You are invited.