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Monday, September 22, 2008

What if you could only keep one memory?

I’m on the last bus out of this life and I arrive at Camp Eternity. I can see over the fence surrounding the compound and everyone is dressed beautifully, radiates happiness, and most are dancing. It’s obviously a paradise. I pop out of the bus and lineup for admittance. I don’t know how I got this lucky, but I figure some of my files must have gotten trashed during a hard-drive crash. So be it—good times, I’m there! As I reach the gate, a handsome dude all dressed in white, flashes a baby-you’re-mine grin, and holds up his hand.

“Before you can pass through these gates to eternity, you must choose a single memory to retain—everything else will be erased forever. You have one hour to choose.”

WHOA. Tough assignment. What would YOU choose? What one memory would you cling to above all others? Other than the births of children or weddings days, which we'll say are givens.

This is the premise of 100 an imaginative, original play by Christopher Heimann, Neil Monaghan, and Diene Petterle, published by
Nick Hern Books, a specialized UK company that publishes plays, screenplays, and theaterbooks. NHB is a great source for scripts of any number of fascinating productions should you be in the market.

100 and the company's subsequent presentation Food, about Frank Byrne, a top chef with only one ambition in life—to win the coveted third Michelin star for his restaurant, were performed by the imaginary body, an award-winning theater and film company. They “are interested in creating theatre and film with a focus on playful visual styles, often using magical realism to stretch the boundaries between reality and fiction.” Both of these plays have received special recognition and have been published by Nick Hern Books. You can learn more about the theater company and their interpretations at

I’m fascinated by this premise and find it’s not easy to choose just one out of a lifetime of memories, but lots of fun to think about. I’d love to hear what YOUR response would be when you end up just this side of heaven??

--Rosemary Carstens


Anonymous said...

Selecting one memory is not as easy as it may seem - I have decided that the one memory that I would never want to lose is when I first layed my eyes on my children. To me, at that moment my heart was captured forever. Suzanne Hall

Anonymous said...

It surprises me, but I decided that my one memory would be Tristan's birth, before I even read Suzanne's comment. It was truly an overwhelming moment that I will never forget.
It beats climbing El Capitan, being on Everest, and all the rest.

Anonymous said...


For a moment there, I thought the plot to "Defending Your Life," was being presented (Albert Brooks, Meryl Streep, Rip Torn . . . very funny).

I'd rather defend my life (as in the film by that name) than have to choose one memory. Yikes! But it seems to me that one of the true pleasures of being in human form is to have physical senses, so I would choose some memory that involved full-throttle sensory experience, rather than one of the mystical experiences I've had. It would be a memory of a time in which I used all of my senses to the fullest.

What precise memory? I'll have to give it some thought. Maybe it has yet to be experienced.


Donna D said...

Not telling. :-)

ClaireWalter said...

One memory? Hearing the baby's first cry, seeing him and holding him are naturals, even though both abundant joyful and less joyful memories on the road to adulthood are overlaid upon those first thrilling and memorable moments. Otherwise, it is impossible for me -- like asking me about my single favorite restaurant or work of art or musical composition or world city or....

While we're at it, has anyone determined how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Anonymous said...

I would tell the dude to turn off the cute grin and deal with the fact that life isn't only about the superlatives but the whole journey and that if he didn't understand that then he didn't get what it is to be human and therefore wasn't qualified for his job. After that if all I got to remember was one memory then it would be bopping him one in the face and turning around and going to hell where I could decide to remember it all with the compassion and joy and pain of someone who's been there. And I bet that'd turn out to be heaven. :)

Anonymous said...

This certainly isn't how heaven works ... however, playing the game, I'd choose the certain memory of my acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of my life—without that, nothing else matters anyway!

Anonymous said...

Since I have never given birth, I don't have a memory that can stand above all others, which it seems that giving birth (seeing the baby for the first time) can do.

I like what Debbie Mihal said. Can I second that? At least until I can put my finger on (put my mind on) a memory that really stands out.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Debbie...there are too many glorious memories to choose. The sound of my car purring, willow branches skimming a pond, the smell of baking bread. There are also sad ones that are just as important to keep.

However, I will admit that my wedding day was a real winner. I felt loved and beautiful, and I was surrounded by joyous friends who brought potluck food and joined in with folk dancing. And my husband played a perfect trumpet fanfare as I walked in!!

Seems to me the most important part is hanging on to those good memories to get you through the rough patches--in whatever incarnation you're currently inhabiting!

Donna D said...

P.S. I don't have any kids, but I certainly would not choose my wedding day. Oi.

Mothers are so predictable. Sorry, but I had to say it.

Jerrie Hurd said...

Seeing children first time is good answer. However, there was a moment when I was walking on Oregon beach at sunset. All of a sudden it realized that both the sunset and the moonrise were reflected on the wet sand of the beach. It was stunningly beautiful. I looked around for someone to share that moment, but I was all alone. At the time, I thought, "This is what it's all about--beauty."
That would be my one memory to have forever.

Anonymous said...

I'd choose the first date I had with my now-husband. We'd corresponded online for a while and then decided to meet at his family's beach house (where they were all gathered for a summer vacation). He was staying in a separate house, and the two of us just sat and talked for about 10 hours. We talked and talked and talked, both of us knowing this was it. We call it "the beach date." I often think of this deliciously sweet memory. It was the pivotal point in my life--the reward for everything I'd struggled through in the years leading up to that night.

Anonymous said...

Actually, it sounds like the plot of Afterlife - an enjoyable foreign film:
Here's a review from the Video
, if you haven't seen it.

Only you got 3 days, instead of an hour, to decide the one memory to take with you.

As for my memory, it picked itself years ago.

My then-boyfriend had recently ended our relationship and I was going in for a minor medical procedure, the next morning.

Being the drama queen I have been known to be, I was contemplating life.

My best friends called and asked me to join them at Boulder res for a picnic. My (then little) nieces were giggling and smiling, as we played on the 'beach.' For one moment, time stood still.

I remember thinking, if I had to die, this moment was worth it all.

I realized in those seconds that I had a great life, and, a million moments flashed before me (told you I was a drama queen).

So, if you think of it, that memory kind of cheats the system, because the memory (though of the event itself) incorporated remembering tons of delightful and appreciated moments of my life (at least up until then).

Thanks for writing the post Rosemary! And, check out Afterlife...

Anonymous said...

I see that another commenter has already pointed out the similarity of this premise with the movie After Life. (Here is a description from the NYT: http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/173451/After-Life/overview

I thought that movie extremely thought provoking and the task amazingly difficult to do. It becomes a sort of persistent challenge.

All the best--

Anonymous said...

Wow! Thank you ladies! I thought I'd get beaten up for my comment. The whole thing I suppose pushed my button about being on this sometimes godforsaken planet and after all that, I only get one memory?? No way! I can't believe Spirit would create such a rip-off that I can't even contemplate playing the game.

Laurel--what a beautiful wedding experience you had! I love it.

Linda--what's your recipe for getting to such an amazing first date??

There was another comment, I think by writerdd that I can't seem to find now, that made me smile.

Thanks Rosemary!

Anonymous said...

I am sitting in an easy chair holding my 9-month-old granddaughter. She climbs onto my lap facing me, looks at me like she can't believe her good fortune, and then hugs me as hard as she can. She leans back, looks again, hugs again. In that moment I understood what is meant by unconditional love.

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