The immortality of memory

by Lorien E. Menhennett

My grandpa, Alan E. Menhennett, who died recently. He is pictured here with my grandma, Harriet.

I started this blog with the intent of writing about my journey into the world of medicine. I want to write not only about my intellectual journey, but also my personal one. That means detailing the lessons I learn both as a student, and also as a ser humano – a human being. And no lesson hits closer to home than one you learn through your own family.

As some of you may know, my Grandpa died recently. Learning about death – so clearly a part of life, and especially part of the life of any doctor – is not pleasant. But we have no choice.

I do not pretend that I have figured out how to deal with the grief of losing someone who meant so much to me. What I do know is this: there is power in sharing our memories. I will paraphrase one of the ministers at my Grandpa’s service: “As long as we remember, [that person’s] life never ends.” Because we keep that person alive through our memories. (To those of you who know me well: YES, I actually agreed with a minister on something. Shocking, I know.)

Turns out I believe in immortality after all. Of a sort.

Along with a handful of relatives, I had the privilege of sharing one of my own memories of Grandpa at his memorial service. I will share that memory here:

Two things that Grandpa really impressed on me were the importance of giving, and the value of education. When each of us grandchildren was born, he and Grandma set up a fund for us. He wanted us to use the money to pay for our education. He was very firm on this. In fact, he basically said that the he would disown the first grandchild who used that money to buy a car. So, as the eldest grandchild, what did I do? I used that money to buy a car. And he must have loved me a lot, because he didn’t disown me.

Now, I did not do this to spite him – I bought the car after I graduated from college, and I had gotten a lot of scholarships and help from my parents to pay my tuition, so I didn’t need Grandpa’s money for school. What I did need was a car. And what his money allowed me to do was pay for my nice little Honda Civic – I named her Zippy, because I probably drive a little faster than I should – in full, in cash. No loan payments, no interest – something very fiscally responsible, which I think Grandpa would’ve approved of.

I still have that car, which I bought almost seven years ago, and it’s taken me a lot of places, from commuting to work to cross-country roadtrips. And starting this fall, I’ll be using my car to take me to and from school, since I’m returning to college pursue another degree. So in a way, I’m using the money to further my education after all. Which I know would make Grandpa proud. And Grandpa, when I get in that car, I will think of you. I love you and will miss you very much.

You can view my Grandpa’s online memorial and obituary by clicking here.