Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,
Say that health and wealth have missed me,
Say I’m growing old, but add,
Jenny kissed me.
–James Henry Leigh Hunt
How would you have people remember you, when you’re gone? What do you want them to know, to focus on, in their memories?
The sweet poem at the top of the post came to mind while I was writing, a few months ago, about Harriett and the linen cloth she decorated with her handwork.
The man speaking the poem asserts that, whatever else his life held, it was leavened, and defined, by a kiss from Jenny. This attention, this moment, was an essential part of his being and should be remembered as a key to who he was.
Similarly, the tag sewn to the piece of vintage linen I came across said simply, “Made by Harriett.” That’s all I know about Harriett. I only know her through this remnant of her life. I know she was a maker and someone, maybe her, was proud enough to remark on it in this semi-permanent way.
I know Harriett was creative, skilled, and striving to become better at her work. I have tangible evidence of this and, across the years, I admire this part of the person she was.
So, all this gets me thinking—how do I want to be known and remembered? Do you ever think about such things?
I don’t have kids so I won’t be remembered through them. I imagine even people with children might want to be remembered as more than “the parents of X” and remembered by more people than their direct descendants.
It would be good to be remembered as a caring and fun daughter, a loving and fun wife. It would be nice to be remembered as a kind person or a smart person but those impressions are subjective and ephemeral. Who is going to remember, in 100 years, that I was fun or kind to animals or had a Ph.D.? And besides, those things hardly set me apart or make my life notable. I bet most of us could make similar claims!
But I’ve made things no one else has made.
How pleased I would be if, generations from now, someone held a quilt I made, a scarf I wove, a piece of embroidery I stitched and admired it. If they thought that I was creative, skilled, and striving to become better at my work. If they knew, “Kerry made this.”
So, with apologies to the poet:
Say my life was happy, glad,
Built my life and wouldn’t trade this.
Say I lived a lot, but add,
Kerry made this.
That’s a really good question. I came up with the opposite thought, not to be remembered, that would be okay too. I know that sounds strange and sad but I mean it more like – no impact, maybe just light foot prints. As long as I live a good full life I shouldn’t be too concerned for after thoughts… I think I need to ponder your post further…
This is a very interesting, different take on the subject! I kind of feel like I shouldn’t be concerned (what’s the point of that, really?) and, yet, I think I must be concerned about it–or why would I feel such a drive to “be productive”? Hmmm . . . more to consider.
This brought tears to my eyes. It is so beautifully written.
Well, thank you, Susan! Your work will certainly be remembered, for adding to the knowledge base of the items you so carefully research!
My mom used to quite that poem all the time (my sister is a Jenny). I love your modified version of it and could easily insert my own name into that sentiment.
Your name would fit right in–you prove that every day, with the challenge you’ve set yourself!
For me, the phrase that came to mind was “she shared this.” I think about Sappho and the way that so many fragments of her poetry have come down to us only because someone wrote them out in the margin of another book — maybe my writing about creative people like Candace Wheeler or Mary Sophie Young or Paul Rodier will help their ideas and memories stay alive longer, and find their way to people who can use them.
Thank you for helping me focus my thinking! 🙂
“She shared it” would be perfect for you (plus “made it”!) I guess, as bloggers, we all want to share something but you’ve taken it to a different level, with your research and curiosity!
One hundred years from now, I doubt anyone will remember me.
Really? I wonder . . . I guess can’t really know. I bet Harriett wouldn’t have predicted we’d be talking about her today!
Reblogged this on Catbird Quilt Studio and commented:
Such a lovely essay from Kerry Sanger. Spend a few minutes reading, and then let this steep for a while.
Thank you, Kerry, for sharing these thoughts. I’ve reblogged. If you’d like me to remove it, please let me know. hugs…
I’m pleased you liked this well enough to share with your readers, Melanie!
Lovely. What a legacy to touch many people through your creative handwork and artistry. Brava!
Thanks, Joyce! I have no way of knowing whether anything I’ve made will be kept or treasured . . . but it would be nice!
Beautifully put Kerry! I have thought a little about these things just recently. I have just turned a corner and find myself in my 67th year and realise I am now growing older. I look into the mirror these days and see that I am aging, I see it is time to stop colouring my hair, it is time to let time show itself…….. It is quite something to arrive at this place and to be okay with it! I have children, but no grandchildren and now and again wonder what will become of the things I make and will any one care? Then I remind myself that the joy is in the making and the giving and knowing that someone now receives happiness from my creation – and that is enough. Now and again someone like Harriet and Kerry meet across time and space and something special and thoughtful happens that touches us all and that in itself is a most magical thing!
I think you’re absolutely right that we should focus on the here and now, and the pleasure making gives us! And I really do, most of the time. But, like you, sometimes I get thinking about age and the inevitable. I guess the thought that things I make will remain after I’m gone comforts me!
It is a nice thought!
What a beautiful post, Kerry. I like the idea Kerry made this! It’s hard to know what we will be remembered for because we are different things to different people. You may be remembered as teacher, maker, mentor, friend and much more! Exquisite blogger! I think, to a great extent, it’s up to other people. I suppose one of the things I’d like to be remembered for would be my gardens and mentoring others. For my funeral notice, I’d like ‘in lieu of donations, send flowers’ added. 😉
I love your idea for a funeral notice! You’re right, of course, that others (the rememberers) will decide how each of us is remembered. I guess I’m thinking that, of all the ways I could be thought of, I’d be most pleased if i was thought if as a maker.
Somehow, I do think that will me the main thing!
I nominated you for Blogger Recognition Award.
check out my post http://mommadaisy.wordpress.com 🙂
Thank you, Lisa! I saw it and was so honored!
Love your revised poem! I’m sure I will be remember by my family as a sewing freak.😄 I’m also sure that in a hundred years I will only be a name in a genealogy book. I do hope though that the quilts that I make will be loved for many years by my children,grandchildren and where ever else they roam.
Oh, I suspect some of your quilts sure to be be cherished in 100 years and they will stand as evidence of your creativity and skill!
So interesting that you brought this up…..I was just thinking about ‘ how we want to be remembered’ and the difference between who we are ( were) and what we leave behind. I think of my grandmother, whom I grew up with, her kindness, how she savored the day, the way she carefully observed the world around her, but often it is the things she laid her hands on….the things she made that have carried along the essence of who she was. Very thoughtful post, Kerry………it will continue to keep me pondering!
And the things your grandmother made are still here, even when she isn’t, and their presence reminds us to remember the person. It’s like a little relic that somehow carries a spirit . . or is that too fanciful?
What a beautiful post. I guess I’ve never really asked that question before. But if I would have to answer quickly, a small quote from one of my daughter’s favorite book comes to mind “You must do something to make the world more beautiful.” And I think that would be my aim. To leave something behind that would better the world around me. Tall order, but still… I think that would be about right.
I think we tend to ask this kind of question as we get a little older–you’re not there yet! Making the world better and more beautiful is a fine goal!
I love the idea of sewing a name into a quilt or piece of embroidery. Based on my experiences with my grandmother’s diary, I think that people who leave behind enough artifacts so that someone can get a sense of who they were were are the most likely to be remembered. I also think that someone is more likely to be remembered if more than one person has the artifacts. I think that it’s almost impossible to be certain that any one artifact will survive over time–but if there are many, in many locations, some are likely to make it.
Oh my god!! You’re back! I’ve missed you and didn’t realize you’d started posting again! But, yes, the more a person leaves behind, the better the chance that something will survive. You ht the mother lode with Helen’s diary!
lovely post! I’ve thought about this before, but more in terms of writing / journaling. History is so important, and not just the history of famous people, but of regular folks like us. What we did, how we did it, and why.
I think of my writing as part of this–it lets me record my thoughts but also write about and record handmade items that might otherwise by forgotten. As you say, this sort of domestic history is important, too!