by Zoë Pollock
Roger Ebert contemplates loved ones he's lost:
Early one morning, unable to sleep, I roamed my memories of them. Of an endless series of dinners, and brunches, and poker games, and jokes, and gossip. On and on, year after year. I remember them. They exist in my mind–in countless minds. But in a century the human race will have forgotten them, and me as well. Nobody will be able to say how we sounded when we spoke. If they tell our old jokes, they won't know whose they were. That is what death means. We exist in the minds of other people, in thousands of memory clusters, and one by one those clusters fade and disappear.
A commenter raises an interesting distinction:
Many Native American peoples had two words to describe the dead. One word for those who had died- but still had someone living who remembered them, and another word for those who have died and no living person was left who remembered them.