If I hadn’t been absently flipping through an old journal tonight, I might not have remembered that my mom died eleven years ago today. I felt guilty for losing track of the date, as if I’d abandoned my post. But over the years, my observances have drifted towards her birthday rather than those final memories of her kicking at the sheets, saying I have to go. Perhaps this is natural and good.

How do we observe the anniversaries of our dead? Tonight I sat outside in the unfamiliar terrain of southeastern Ohio, lit a candle, and watched the stars.

Some words from John Berger come to mind: “There are no longer any acknowledged occasions for us to receive the dead and the unborn. There is each day’s life, yet what surrounds us is a void. A void in which millions of us are today alone. And such solitude can transform death into a companion.” Reading Berger is always a shot in the arm, for he urges us to engage with the texture of our memories, no matter how tragic or mundane, and to connect with that “wordless language which we have been reading since early childhood, but which I cannot name.”