Mel at Stirrup Queens had another thought-provoking post today about remembrance and how writing about the people we knew and loved helps us to honour & preserve their memory. (And how we need to hear good things about ourselves from other people BEFORE we're gone.)
In one of the comments, Jill says, "I have this fear of being forgotten."
I think that's one of the things that bothers me about not having children. Even more than "Who will take care of me when I get old?" (I figure there will always be nursing homes, etc., that will make sure that at the very least I don't starve.)
But who will REMEMBER me when I'm gone?
I will have no children or grandchildren to perpetuate my memory.
My sister does not & will not have any children.
Dh's brother has two teenaged boys. I love them dearly, but (perhaps because they are boys) they are closer to dh than I am. My fear is that dh will die first & they will forget about me and leave me to languish in a nursing home without any visitors.
I have tried to reach out to the children of my two (only two)(both male) cousins on my mother's side… but it's been hard to establish a relationship with them. I spent lots of time with my cousins at our grandparents' when we were kids -- but we live far apart and, once we got into high school and then university, and then married & started families, we never seemed to be visiting our grandparents at the same time any more. There was a 10-year stretch, between 1988 and my grandparents' funerals in 1998 & 1999, when I did not see them, & I've seen them only three or four times since then, although I get Christmas cards from them and the occasional e-mail (from the one in particular).
My mother sees them more often, & calls them occasionally, as well as hearing about them via my uncle (her brother), & keeps me posted on what they're up to. But I really don't know their kids very well at all (although I feel like I do, by virtue of our relationship, & like I should). This makes me sad.
Beyond being remembered, I've long struggled with the idea of "who will inherit my things when I'm gone?" Most of it will go to our nephews -- but there are some things that came from my family and would mean absolutely nothing to them -- for example, the knickknacks from my grandmother's kitchen that now reside in mine, the ceramic topper from my grandparents' wedding cake, the pictures of my extended family members. The logical answer to me would be to give these things to my cousins' children. Each cousin has a girl & boy (most of them now teenagers); my younger cousin also has a stepdaughter from his wife's first marriage.
I've written previously about my older cousin's daughter, who bears an eerie resemblance to my sister & me, went from toddler to teenager. She got pregnant as she was finishing high school (!) and, now 21, has two little girls who also look very much like my sister & I did at the same age (and, perhaps, how my own daughter would have looked). She was my grandparents' first great-grandchild and spent a lot of time with them growing up. She was 12 when my grandfather died & 13 when my grandmother died, so she remembers them -- better, I'm sure, than the younger ones.
For my "golden" birthday, when I turned 12, my grandmother gave me her Class of 1934 high school ring. I treasured it, and wore it right up until I got married.
Three years ago, when my older cousin's daughter was graduating from high school (pregnant), I decided she should have it, as a high school graduation present. I knew I would see my uncle, her grandfather, on my vacation -- so I retrieved the ring from the safety deposit box, wore it for one more week, kissed it as I took it off my finger for the last time, & wrapped it up carefully with a card that contained my grandmother's high school graduation photo & a note saying that I wanted her to have this & I thought Grandma would too. I said that perhaps someday she could tell her soon-to-be-born daughter about Grandma & Grandpa, and how much they loved us all. And I gave it to my uncle to give to her.
I never received a thank-you note or any acknowledgement of the gift whatsoever. I'm wondering whether I should try something similar with my younger cousin's daughter when she graduates, & see whether I get a better response. If so, then I'll know who the rest of the stuff should go to. ; ) If not… well, I still think the stuff relating to that part of my family should go to them. But it would be nicer, knowing that someone else appreciates it in the same way that I do.