“Not the power to remember, but its very opposite, the power to forget, is a necessary condition for our existence.” ― Sholem Asch
Having to deal with the death of a loved one is undoubtedly one of the most painful things that a person has to go through. Having gone through the various stages of grief, for some, forgetting may turn out to be the only hope of solace. Some may repress the experiences subconsciously while others, due to a lacking of help extended by their subconscious, have to make a conscious effort to forget.
Although this may seem like an inhumane proposition – forgetting the dead – it may be the only way that you can move forward. And sometimes, the best thing you can do for the dead is to move forward and live a great life yourself.
Pain is not the only reason some may consider forgetting the dead. Some cultures, like the Jivaroan tribe that is found in parts of Peru and Ecuador, advocate the forgetting of the dead, not because it is painful to remember them but because their beliefs command so. The Jivaro believe that all things, animate and inanimate, contain souls. In order for the dead to be transformed into souls, the living must forget their faces. This involves a torturous process where they chant graphic descriptions of the decomposition process of the dead in an effort to erase he faces from their minds.
Forgetting takes a lot of courage and one shouldn’t judge those who do. But there’s something equally powerful in remembering the dead, especially remembering them for who they were. While the traditions associated with remembering the dead vary from culture to culture and can be quite heartening, I find the Mexican one to be the most interesting. Mexicans celebrate and remember the dead through a festival called the Day of the Dead. It is believed that during this period, the dead have divine permission to visit friends and relatives on earth and enjoy once again the pleasures of life. So, the living decorates the graves of their ones with colourful flowers and make offerings of food. While the decorations can be very vivid, it can be a cathartic experience for the family and friends.
Choosing between remembering and forgetting the dead is the burden of those left behind, one that can’t be shared or chosen by someone else. Let us do great and wonderful things so that the remembering or forgetting may become just a little bit easier.