As the weather has turned cold and grey and wet, I’ve been cuddling up in sweaters and listening to a lot of the Sickboy podcast. I’ve listened to about 20 episodes in the last couple of weeks, and I’ve been particularly interested in the episodes about those facing death. Jeremie, who has Cystic Fibrosis and is therefore facing a shortened life span, is a strong believer in doctor assisted suicide and death with dignity. He also seems to be an atheist. In one episode*, he talked about death as a final peaceful sleep – a welcome end when his body is failing. His intention is to live until the point when a double lung transplant is recommended, and then, as he says, to gather his loved ones and “drink the juice or whatever”.
I’ve been thinking a lot about a phrase I see a lot on social media when Pagans lose a loved one: “What is remembered lives.”** As our lives become more digital and we each leave ever more long-lasting footprints – more photos, writings, recordings*** – it is possible than our distant descendants will easily know more about us than we could ever uncover about our great-greats.**** We will live on in memories and imaginations for as long as anyone cares to follow our digital life trail, but eventually there will be so many lives memorialized that we will be archived and allowed to rest unremembered.
I don’t participate in ancestor worship myself. I remember those I’ve loved who have passed on and hold those memories dear, but I believe that those who have passed through the veil have earned their rest. When I light candles in their names at Samhain, it is for me, not for them.
Rather than ancestor worship, I propose descendant worship. In circle, let’s honour and venerate those who are coming after us. We can draw strength from who they will be to power magic and action for a better future – the future they will inherit from us.
What is remembered lives… even if they haven’t walked this earth yet.
* The problem of marathoning episodes is that I don’t remember which one this was in.
** The full quote is “For here, what is remembered lives”, from Starhawk and Reclaiming’s song The Gates.
*** “Humanity uploads around two billion photos every single day. A staggering 300 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute. Most of us create digital files at work and for our personal projects. Our digital worlds are expanding all the time.”
**** “… by 2050 more than half of the Internet’s users will be dead – that is, of all the accounts ever created by Internet users, more than half will have been created by people who have since died.“