People want to be remembered. In remembrance, the soul lives on. We deliver a moment of silence for the 9/11 victims, put up a plaque for the Sandy Hook children, mourn the death of a pet, and so on. When the lives of families, friends, strangers, and animals intersect with ours, and elicit feelings of compassion, we remember.
I witnessed the death of a little green bird on Nassau Street this week. My thoughts scattered, and I cannot put my mind to rest. The bird struggled to take off from the sidewalk. During its last attempt, a lady rushing to work stepped right on top of it (unintentionally, I hope) — CRACK — I was right behind her. It was the hardest thing to see and hear. The bird laid flat on its side, skeleton crushed, eyes open, lifeless. The lady who committed the deed looked horrified, and walked away briskly. I had initially walked away as well, but eventually could not leave the hopeless little creature behind. I turned back, but the rest makes my heart heavy. I had been sad.
Over the past few days, I was able to think through, and justify this bizarre encounter. Birds feed on the city’s food. They will probably die from natural causes, unnoticed. The bird’s life, and ours are much like the Nokia Snake game — ours the wall, the bird’s the snake. It, by chance, or by fate, ran into ours, marking the end of its life. Yet in our memories it lives on.
It wouldn’t be the same if the bird didn’t die. Ironic, isn’t it? If the bird were to fly away in front of her, the woman might be startled and annoyed, much like a late night unpleasant encounter with subway rats or immortal street pigeons. Compassion might very well be replaced by apathy. My sadness and compassion only exist in that the bird’s was vulnerable against the woman’s white trainer. The 9/11 victims, trapped in skyscrapers, are remembered because they were equally defenseless. So were the Sandy Hook children. So was Pulse.
How do you want to be remembered, there goes the question. The bird — and those strangers in tragedies, for this matter — is only remembered for its death. Our lives crossed when its life stopped. These single overlapping points imprint the living memory, and the eulogies for those that die unnoticed were nowhere be found.