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AA009679Last week while I was working at my desk my cell phone rang and when I picked it up i saw that my grandmother was calling me. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem except that in this case, I couldn’t see how this was possible. She has, after all, been gone from us for over three years.

I experienced a momentary shock because I had not seen her name come up on my phone in a long time. You probably know the kind I’m talking about…the kind of feeling you get when you experience something that your rational mind tells you is in direct conflict with reality. The humorous side of my brain immediately had a flash of insight as an image of her demanding of St. Peter to use the telephone briefly came to mind. After all, if anyone could find a way to make a phone call from the beyond, she certainly could have but she would have also complained bitterly about the long distance phone bill. Long distance was a BIG DEAL back in her day. I decided I had better answer the phone.

Of course, it was none of that. My mother had gone up to her mother’s house to meet someone that was doing some work there and she used the house phone to call me about something. We shared a good laugh about what had happened and ended the call. Apparently my grandmother was still looking for a phone somewhere she could use but it made me think back to the time when that name and number would come up every day.

Sometimes she would call when I was in a meeting or couldn’t take the call. I always felt a little bad that I hadn’t answered but I always tried to call her back. I still miss her daily phone calls and the voice mails she would leave me when I couldn’t answer the calls. I wish I had kept some of those too.

I suppose it is a quirk I have but I can never bring myself to delete people from my phone’s address book that have died, at least not those I have known most of my life, cared a great deal about or considered to be a very close friend. Maybe some would say that is some form of denial or that its a way to hang on to those that once were a regular part of daily life but whatever the case, I never can seem to push that button that would remove them from the iPhone’s brain. When I posted something about this on Facebook, I found out I was not completely alone on that score.

Every now and then, I will go through my address book and cull out those who I know with certainty I probably won’t call again. Most of those are business contacts, which change over time, perhaps someone that you were working on something with but that you haven’t spoken to in a couple of years. Usually, as I go through the list, I’ll find at least a few dozen that I really don’t need anymore but inevitably, I’ll run across the names of people who played a really important part in my life and who have gone on to heaven. I just leave them there and go on to the next.

My grandmothers, both of them. My Aunt Charlotte and Aunt Jeane. My great-aunts, Cleo and Ruth. My cousins, Patrick and Janet, both of whom were taken unexpectedly and far earlier than they should have been. My coworker and loyal friend, Billy. All of these have remained and probably will until they do something with the technology and force me to change everything in my address book. Until then, they will stay.

it isn’t unusual for people to hang on to memories and things that remind us of those we knew, who helped in some way to shape us into the people we are today. Pictures are the most common and more recently, videos. They have the power to take us to a particular time and place and show us a glimpse of life that we might remember well. Items, and things we acquire from those we cared about that we attach significance to, like an old clock that chimed at night in a reassuring way when I was a child, a magnifying glass used by aged eyes to read fine news print and a pocket watch whose stem is worn smooth from years of daily winding.

Old birthday cards, letters and post cards from parents and grandparents, a favorite family recipe or a hand sewn quilt. A Christmas stocking embroidered with favorite images and ornaments for the tree that date back to one’s earliest Christmas memories. Or just a name, address and phone number in a digital file that gets transferred from one phone to the next over the years.

Memories, of those now gone and those still with us live in all kinds of ways and while some grow fainter as time goes by, others grow stronger and remain steadfast because we make ourselves retain them. We keep them in our minds and we keep them in our hearts…and sometimes, we keep them in our iPhone to remind us that they were once here with us and in some ways, still are.