I received a new SIM card from my telephone company. Foreseeing that the data on the old one would be lost, I took some time entering all my contacts’ numbers into a separate document. In alphabetic but entirely random order, people and events rose up before me: those I knew from secondary school, from the trip to Russia, from my three years at Roosevelt Academy, from my one year at Leuven, from seminary… Some of the numbers I knew to be outdated. Others I had hardly ever used. Yet I kept them all, just so I would be able to stumble on them a few years hence and remember.
There was a time when I typed up the text messages I received, because I always had to delete them to make room for others. After more than one hundred messages, I stopped copying. Others I saved for a long time, like Anne’s offer to pick me up when I got stranded for a night at Roosendaal station. Then there were some that I never deleted: ‘These fragments I have shored against my ruins.’
Anne making arrangements to meet me before I left for America. Phoebe’s wish on New Year 2009: ‘Be thou blessed.’ The trip to Rome, the first meeting with Dr. Desmond, graduation. Appointments with Carel, Mary, and others. My friend’s wedding at which I was a witness. Getting lost at World Youth Day in Madrid. The last message I got from Bodi.
In the end it does not amount to much, like all the school stuff I saved for years and years, only to throw most of it away without regret. But that, too, is a function of memory: it reminds us that most of our life is ash and stubble. Straw, as one saint would have it – a judgment which the Church carefully preserved and admired, though often without assent.
Already we are returning to dust.