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 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.