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January 20, 2023

A very precious memory

7:37 a.m. at the coffee shop
This morning, I make my way like a sleepwalker to the coffee shop, programmed through habit. I barely slept last night. Thank goodness it’s Friday and I have no appointments. I really want to share the unusual yet priceless discovery that kept me up all night.

A single question tormented me the entire night. Without further ado, here is the question: “If you could keep one single memory and bring it with you in the afterlife, which one would it be?” What would you do if there was life after death and that all your memories were erased, but one? Which memory would you want to revisit eternally?

I got into bed early last night, believe it or not, to read for a while before turning in. Happily nestled in bed, resting on two satin pillows, a page from a magazine threw me for a loop!

What is most important to me? Which memory would I want to remember forever? I sit straight up in my bed and consider this highly significant issue.

You know I’m not the type of person who simply sweeps soul-searching questions under the rug. I have spent the better part of the last three years analyzing my life and telling my story. I jump right out of bed, look for my slippers and head to the kitchen in my dressing gown. I flip open my iPad, tap on a few icons and type the name of the journalist who stole my night’s sleep. I want to know more.

Google tells me that this important question comes from a 1998 Japanese movie entitled AFTER LIFE by director Hirokasu Kore-eda.

I pour myself a coffee, which by now won’t surprise you, and peruse the Amazon website looking for the movie, but for $37, it doesn’t even mention which language it’s subtitled in. I have to wait to get in touch with a friend who’s better at this type of search than I am. I get comfortable on the couch in my library and I turn to the article in the magazine Happiness that first sparked my interest and kept me from Morpheus’ arms.

In the movie, a group of people who have recently died find themselves in a place between heaven and earth – in limbo, I suppose – where they are given one week to choose a single memory from their past life. One single memory they can then take with them into eternity. The movie depicts how each person chooses that memory, which is then recorded so they can play it back at any time afterwards.

My head and my heart plunge into a dreadful existential void as I read. Which single memory will I bring into eternity? My body stiff on the couch, I suddenly become like the deceased characters in the movie, parked in limbo with only one week to decide which memory to bring into eternity. Lost in thought, I am up all night creating my own movie; dreaming up a dozen scenarios that I end up ripping apart each time.

Around 4 a.m., I grab the magazine again and discover a related article by Jacky van de Goor, a PhD researcher whose work is dedicated to collecting all kinds of memories from thousands of people. I try to find out more about her, but most of the information available through Google about Jacky von de Moor is written in German or a doctorate-level English that is too difficult for me to read. My eyelids are becoming as heavy as lead. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to choose. What do we know about death? Nothing at all.

Since I am as curious as Australia’s frill-necked lizard, I would love to know which memory you would take with you into eternity. Dear readers, don’t follow my example! Don’t spend a sleepless night torturing your mind sifting through your memories. Reflect upon it while you are taking a stroll through nature. And if you feel like it, share your precious memory with me – such confessions bring us closer.

I am quite certain that each of our precious memories represents the closest thing to what we might consider our life’s core.


P.S. I promise you this: I will revisit all my memories from my life until I find the most precious one to take with me into eternity. Eventually I will share it with you in a letter.