Sitting Shiva for Stan, and Shared Memories

A lovely and wonderful man, Stan Berger, died the day before yesterday after a long illness, and I went to sit shiva with his family and friends last night. I have been a very close friend of his daughter for 17 years now and spent a lot of time with her dad over the years, when she was living at his house after starting her new company, having Passover seder with his mother in Brooklyn, and seeing him on holidays and birthdays. He was a kind and loving man, with a brilliant mind, and a professor at Berkeley. His love for his daughters is what I remember most about him. His love was enormous, and unconditional. He celebrated them every time they met, with new joy. He held them during times of sadness, protected them when they felt threatened. He sustained them through the bad boyfriends, the pierced noses, the regrets and mistakes. He was in awe of their intelligence, their accomplishments, their beauty, their social lives, their boyfriends. Some of the love he had for his daughters was reflected on their friends too, and I was one who basked in his loving glow. “He was so proud of you,” Maya said, out of the blue. As if he were my own dad. I loved him too.

We sat shiva, and celebrated his life. Telling stories, remembering, and correcting others memories (“Let me tell you what his brother had hidden in the bedroom of their apartment!” “What! You applied to Oxford? I didn’t know that…” “He was the one who hired me into the department at Berkeley!” “He supported the student movement, but didn’t participate. He was a new, young professor. Back then it was like this…”). Sharing memories all night long.

Today I ran across an article referring to research done around transactive memory, a fancy way of saying that we share our memories with our spouses and partners, colleagues, children, parents and friends, that they are part of us by virtue of their memories of shared experiences. It was an idea developed by psychologist Daniel Wegner, who died in July of this year. The making of memories, keeping them, and telling the stories over and over is the very material of our lives. Our memories are jogged, amended and embellished by the memories of others, and this shared memory is one of the greatest benefits of long-term relationships. After a death, or a divorce, or a division, part of you is lost, because the shared memories are lost. “What was that story he used to tell me at bedtime when I was small?” After he dies, you can’t ask him anymore, and it is so much loss.

We’re sad, and we celebrate. We celebrate the memories we have, and the memories we made. Goodbye, Stanley Berger, Goodbye.

4 thoughts on “Sitting Shiva for Stan, and Shared Memories

  1. Beautiful, Caterina. He sounds like my dad in the unconditional love that spills over to friends. So true about the shared memories. Since my dad died I have tried to share as many of his stories as I can with my nieces and nephews, but it makes me sad that they won’t get to hear them from him. Thank you for sharing a bit of Stanley’s story with me.

  2. Hi Caterina –

    This is a very touching post and I am so sorry for your loss. Stan Berger sounds like he had a very fulfilling life surrounded by wonderful people who he loved very much and who loved him deeply.

    I share a similar perspective to you as it relates to memories and particularly those memories we hold so dear upon losing a loved one. My wife’s father suddenly passed away at the young age of 62, prior to our marriage and starting our family. It affected her tremendously, obviously.

    At the risk of looking like an insensitive spammer, which I am not, I decided to do something for my family and designed Lifemap – an intimate and personal archive for a family to permanently organize special memories into life stories to showcase the significant lifelong relationships, events, and moments in photos, videos, diaries and social media. Individuals and families can now intuitively organize and share the stories of their lives while curating a lasting legacy of love and life.

    This is a 2 minute video showcasing a slice of my own Lifemap, which will inventually be passed down to my wife and kids one day with our eBeneficiary functionality.

    We can’t turn back the clock, but we can revisit the most meaningful memories and moments of our lives while we’re living and share with those we love in real time and posthumously.
    To me, this is the real power of the cloud.

    Sincerely,

    Denim
    http://www.miLifemap.com

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