The loss of a dear one can be a traumatic experience. At other times, it can cause a milder reaction – some sadness, nostalgia, fond memories, and reflection on life and death.

We all carry an image of our friends in our minds. When we have regular contact with those friends, the image constantly grows and changes over time as a result of our interactions with him or her. When the friend is no more, what happens to this image? Perhaps it gradually sinks into the unconscious, being brought to the surface only when certain occasions, places, or persons remind us of it.

At times, this image may be evoked almost without any external stimulus, if we have been doing a reflective activity like meditation. Meditation churns the mind, bringing some of the mind’s elements from the depths of consciousness to the surface, and takes others from the surface to somewhere in the hazy background. It happens to me once in a while that meditation may remind me of a person, and less often a situation, who is not there any longer. Images of persons from one’s past may emerge, become vivid and alive, and sink again into the background of consciousness, as if they were playing their role in a theatre performance – one performance among many.

The Indian writer Vikram Seth, although not a meditator, expressively portrays the feeling that those who have passed away are still alive in our hearts. He wrote this poem in memory of his friend.

Gone though you have, I heard your voice today
I tried to make out what the words might mean
Like something seen half-clearly on a screen:
Each savoured reference, each laughing bark
Sage comment, bad pun, indiscreet remark
Gone since you have, grief too in time will go
Or share space with old joy; it must be so
Rest then in peace, but spare us some elation
Death cannot put down every conversation
Over and out, as you once used to say?
Not on your life. You’re on this line to stay.

Vikram Seth


  1. Carina

    Interesting thoughts. It reminds me on something Milan Kundera wrote in one of his books (don’t remember which one…) about what determines which things we remember and which things we don’t remember. Of all the objectives features of a person, only a few will stay in our mind, while other people will remember others traits of this person. And as time goes by, I think the image you have of a dead person is further and further away from how it really was.

  2. Kaif

    I am reminded of this line by Hermann Hesse:

    “Every man is more than just himself; he also represents the unique, the very special and always significant and remarkable point at which the world’s phenomena intersect, only once in this way, and never again.”

    To continue in Hesse’s philosophical vein, one may say that our personality is a manifestation of various faces of reality, collected together in a unique manner. The image we have of another person is probably one of the various faces of reality that make up the personality of that person. Maybe the reason this face, rather than others that make up his personality, gets ingrained in our mind is because it helps the manifestation of a particular part of ourselves.

    One could give the example of a man who has never known his mother, who gets attracted to a woman with a maternal nature because of his unfulfilled need for that kind of love. Other people may see the woman in different ways. I’m not sure if there something such as an “objective” view of the woman.

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