"So what makes your life so important?"
That question popped up in an e-mail recently, in response to my ongoing series of autobiographical vignettes.
The answer is simple: absolutely nothing.
I hold no illusions that my life is somehow profound, influential, or significant to the world at large. I write down these memories, filled with inconsequential happenings and trivial asides, because Mom and Dad didn't. Because Grandmother and Granddad didn't. Because my other grandmother didn't, and my other grandfather died too young. Because Karen was taken too soon, too abruptly to even contemplate doing so. Because Carol never found the time.
Family... friends... acquaintances... there are so many people whose lives I would like to have known more fully. Even more, I would love to have preserved their stories of their lives in their own words, so that I would be able to hear those memories in my head, in their own voices, knowing that these were the words they would have used were they talking to me.
Every life is significant to someone, and insignificant to many. I tell these stories so that those who might at some time wonder who I was. My life, my memories... they're no more important than yours or anyone else's--the only difference is in the details. The broad strokes of life are the same for most of us; it's the finishing details that differentiate, that make us who we are... or who we were.
When I read the stories of other lives, I I find the commonality and the distinctions equally fascinating. I want to know how people are like me, as well as how they differ.
And I want to preserve these details now, while I can still see and hear and taste and smell and feel the past. I have two generations of Alzheimer's behind me, and I can't be confident that I'll always remember these details. The act of writing them down--it makes them permanent, it makes them tangible.
This is my life. It may not be much, but it's the only one I've got. I hold no illusions that it's important... except in the sense that every life, every set of accumulated experiences is important to someone.