My mother died too young.
She was 49-years-old and the only things I really have to remember her by are my unreliable memories and printed photographs taken when she was alive. There are no home movies. There aren’t even that many photos. Hundreds, for sure, but not the large treasure chest one could amass these days, armed with a smart phone and any reason in the world to take a picture.
This saddens me deeply.
I scroll through my phone now and look at all the pictures and videos on it. There are so many, and while so many of them are useless, many are also not. In one instance, maybe I took fifteen photos of something or someone in order to get the one photo I wanted to upload to Instagram. But in the midst of those fifteen moments, I can find— by looking at all of them— a far greater portrait of a real memory, one that is larger and more comprehensive than the one I initially chose to let other people see.
My mother passed away before I had access to that sort of technology— technology that we sometimes take for granted— which allows us to effectively record our life right as it’s unfolding.
When she was alive, I didn’t have that. I’m not the only one, and I’m sure it pains other people the same way.
To most people, the idea of someone wearing odd-looking spectacles with the ability to creepily record things that they don’t want recorded is unsettling and scary. I get that, I do. But there’s also a part of Google Glass that I think either some people were too shortsighted to see, or maybe Glass just never did effectively (I never got to really mess around with Glass, although I’d have loved to).
And that was this idea of being able to almost seamlessly capture and record your entire life— without having to whip out the phone— so that one day, maybe when the life you had isn’t the one you know anymore, you can go back and, even if only through visual cues, somehow relive it through your own eyes again. Maybe you can’t touch that person you were with, or talk to them or have them smile at something you said, but you can at least remember a time when you could.
This is important because memory, which can be flawed, is the fabric of who we are.
These days, there’s lots of moaning and groaning about technology. Something so great has become sooo annoying.
There’s talk about digital vacations, social media diets and how we should put our devices away and start living again. You go to a concert and people aren’t so much watching a performance as they are recording it on their phone. This troubles some people, and rightfully so— it is a little troubling. Maybe it’s better to not do that. Maybe everyone should live in the moment and feel it and cherish it and hold onto it for the great moment that it is.
But maybe that’s the moment we hope lasts a lifetime, and maybe capturing it will help us remember it when it’s gone— or heck, help someone else remember it when we’re gone— so I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being almost goofily-tethered to the device in order to make that happen.
I think about other people who aren’t around a lot, too. Things we did together. Places we went. Conversations we had. Laughs we shared. Meals we cooked. Love we shared. But I don’t always have a record of it. Not in any real or tangible sense. They are just thoughts in my head, memories.
And sometimes I want to relive them, see those people again, feel those things again, rekindle that flame, reignite that energy. I can’t and it sucks.
Maybe if I’d have had a smart phone years ago, if things were easy then like they are now, with images being instantly saved forever in the cloud, I’d still be able to hear my mother’s voice. I remember it, sure?—?but I can’t hear it. I can’t see her move. I can’t reasonably revisit what it looked like for her to be alive.
All I really needed then was a smart phone, the greatest invention of all time.