There’s nothing so humbling as contemplating death.
It’s one of life’s few guarantees. We are going to die. When and how, who knows? Like St. Francis de Sales writes in his Introduction to the Devout Life (highly recommend, by the way), “All that we do know is that die we shall, and for the most part sooner than we expect.”
And what’s going to happen when we die? St. Francis de Sales answers this too: “Consider how the survivors will hasten to put that body away, and hide it beneath the earth—and then the world will scarce give you another thought, or remember you, any more than you have done to those already gone. ‘God rest his soul!’ men will say, and that is all. O death, how pitiless, how hard you are!”
I burst out laughing when I read this. Not only because I felt called out, but also because it was a sobering truth.
No one’s going to remember me when I die.
I don’t expect to be a canonized saint (and honestly with everything God asks of them, I don’t think I want the job), nor do I expect my stories to be passed down as beloved classics or picked up as assigned reading in school (though I won’t lie and say it wouldn’t be cool if that did happen).
More than likely, the world will rarely think of me once my time here is up. Especially if things go as I would expect and, as the youngest in my family and with no intention of marrying and having children, I outlive all my loved ones and bury them. Who will be left to mourn me then?
Of course, God’s will could be different. Maybe I’ll die tomorrow, in which case there will certainly be people who remember me.
Even then though, they will with each day think of me less and go on with their lives. And that’s good. I don’t want my loved ones to stop living just because I’m not around. But once they’re gone, too, my memory will fade more, dwindling like a candle flame, until it goes out completely and people are like, “Citlalin who?”
Years ago, this would’ve frightened and depressed me. I would’ve had an existential crisis, wondering what was the point of trying, then. Or I would’ve worried even more about finding ways to immortalize my existence for a few centuries at least. Because back then I greatly desired to be remembered.
Being forgotten was one of my greatest fears. I was constantly stressed out, worried I’d be left out or abandoned at school, and despite receiving a lot of attention at home, I still feared the rare moments when my family forgot about me in trivial matters, like buying everyone’s favorite pan dulce but mine.
And the few times I was forgotten racked my heart. I’d waver between sadness and anger for hours over small matters and for days, even weeks, over bigger ones, thinking I was worthless and unloved, or not loved enough.
As an aspiring author these fears carried into my writing, or more specifically my career goals. Some of my loftier dreams included being a New York Times Bestseller, having a national book tour, and getting invited to speak on talk shows or podcasts. And all before turning 30.
Each year or month I’d set a writing goal like a word count I wanted to meet or something I wanted for my Instagram account. If I didn’t meet those goals, my fears of being forgotten would plague me because I felt like I was racing against a clock. I feared that if I didn’t meet my aspirations by the arbitrary deadline I set on myself that I’d miss my chance of success.
If I’d read St. Francis de Sales’ words back then, I definitely would’ve gone into panic mode. Thankfully, by the time I read them I knew that, as sure as it is that I’m going to die, it’s also certain that even if the whole world forgets me one day, God never will.
Instead of feeling fear or sadness, realizing I’d be forgotten when I die was more liberating than anything, even reassuring. It really put things into perspective about Who I should be focused on pleasing and how I should live my life.
It’s a great relief that I don’t have to strive for worldly recognition and love, which is honestly a lot of work and more unstable and shorter lived than a spinning top. God, however, notices, remembers, and blesses even the little things I do, and His love for me never wavers.
Sure, I still have some aspirational author dreams like getting invited to speak at the schools I attended, and yes having my stories be someone’s favorites. And it will definitely still sting if I’m accidentally forgotten by my family and friends. But once God calls me home, I know none of that will matter to me anymore.
When I finally meet Our Lord face to face, I’m pretty sure I’ll be so in awe of Him that I’ll barely remember my name, let alone care if I left a notable reputation on Earth.
So, it’s okay if my name and works are lost in the wind, if my legacy dies with my loved ones. I’ll be grateful for any blessings of acknowledgement God gives me, as an individual and author, for however long He wills.
And if people do remember me, I hope they’ll remember someone with infectious joy, someone kind and encouraging, who strove to do God’s will first and foremost.
It’s okay if I don’t leave a visible mark on the world in recognition and accolades. Through the grace of God, I’ll leave the invisible mark I’m meant to in the hearts of others.
And if I do my job extra well, people will forget me and remember only God in my good works.
If when I die I’m forgotten by this world, I’ll be okay. There’s One who always remembers me.