A life is a story comprised by so many mundane moments, strung together over time, and punctuated by a spattering of majestic milestones. Many of the most beloved memories are not the most dramatic--a soft smile after the children are all asleep, the squeeze of a hand, a shared sunset. Those closest to us remember the life...others simply recall a story or two.
Sometimes, History claims a claims a life. Sometimes a story. People do the same. Sometimes a story affects us so profoundly, that the essence of it stays with us forever...if not the specifics.
As you bend down to tie you son's perpetually untied shoe, you think Remember that man who would have died in the Twin Towers but for the fact that his shoelace broke and he stopped to buy a new pair? His name is long lost to most of us, but that moment is ingrained forever in your mind.
When you hear the name John Wilkes Booth, you are likely to think "The Man Who Shot Lincoln." Unless you are a historian, you are not likely to recall much else about his life, or character, or family.
We listen to these stories on the news, enthralled, unable to look away. We hear bits, little snippets, sound clips designed to grab our attention and pull our heart strings. We superimpose the face of our child on each victim. We weep and pray and curse.
This moment, their last terrifying moment, sears itself on our soul. Years from now we will remember the anguished face that flashed on the television scream, the line of children--hands linked--marching away from the unspeakable. Each angelic face, their innocent eyes, will haunt us. And our eyes will still swell with tears of gratitude at the memory of the brave teachers who pulled children to safety--at those who ran towards the gunfire...not away.
Others, however, will remember more than that. They will remember shared conversations, and laughter, and first steps and first birthdays. They will recall a myriad of hopes and dreams, and fears, shared in quiet whispers. They will smile over the petty bickering, the practical jokes, the odd quirks and preferences that used to annoy but are now unspeakably precious.
We will remember the story.
They will remember the life.