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by Debra L. Freeberg

What happens at the end of life to the stored treasures of knowledge and memory?

To the books of language fruit dripping with meaning, consequence, and flavor.

To the closely held memories of touch and kiss and embrace.

To snapshot beauty: a flicker of creation glory stored across decades of memory.

What happens to the sum of our experiences, gifts so essential to the vital force of the breathing world but rendered inaccessible by a final parting?

Some gifts are memories kneaded by gnarled hands and eaten by eager families,    grandchildren, or homeless men and women.

Some are sung inside the car

            over the rivers and through the woods, and throughout a growing life.

Others are whispered around woodland fires, or

                                                            yelled by adoring fans in one arena or another.

Some gifts are shared with neighbors and passing friends,

            a freshly painted door

            a forgotten toy that tempts acquisition

            flowers of riotous colors amid lush greens and golds.

Some memories are gifts of ephemera or chimera, tales or prayers or rhymes for rapt         audiences of too, too solid flesh and bone.

Some are gifts only in hindsight, painful and stinging true:

            crucible stories retold so others might veer from paths too insubstantial to hold a   whole human being.            

What happens then to the earned furrows of experience that mark us?

Many are lost in the evanescent passing of breath, sigh or moan.

With each whisper of thought, details drown in the retelling.

Yet,

I think some memories remain behind, too true to be lost.

These gifts are flung heaven high to blaze the night sky bright;

            Their light refracted and caught by artists

            who wrestle the stuff of stars into image, shape and sound.

Debra Freeberg

  Dr. Debra L Freeberg is a Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI