My sister likes to tell me I study history because I have no soul. She says because I can stand to watch documentaries on the Titanic, because I love war movies, I am immune to the pain, the devastation, the sorrow they sow.
But she's wrong. I study history to keep from making the same sorry mistakes over and over again. I study history to understand what's happening in the present. But most of all I study history to honor its victims.
Over 1500 people died in the sinking of the Titanic. 1500 cold, terrified people who died together and yet were all alone. I am not immune to their deaths, I am not emotionless, I am not a robot.
I study history because I am human.
Because to feel for them, to empathize with the billions who have succumbed to time's cruel embrace is to keep them alive.
We all say, "Oh, I just want to be remembered when I'm gone. Remember me, remember my life." But eventually you will be forgotten, your life's endeavors dated and rendered meaningless. Your children's children's children will know neither your name, nor your face.
Your feelings, your dreams, your passions will lie with you in your grave, and all that made you you- all that made you human- will cease to exist. And in that moment you, too, will cease to be human.
It is all I can do as a fellow member of the human race to feel for your loss. For it is your loss. It is not your daughter's loss, or your father's loss, or your best friend's loss. They have not lost themselves, you have.
And so I study history to honor you. I may not know your life's passions, or when you first fell in love, or about that time you sat in the park, alone, for a whole day, just to contemplate your own existence, for no one but you can know that, and you are long, long gone. But I can sense your imprint on this world, your footsteps in the sand, and I can stand, just for a moment, where you stood and breathe your air, and in doing so I can keep you you, keep you human, for just a little while longer.
And all I can do is hope that when I am long, long gone someone else will have the respect to do the same for me, just because we share that one, ultimate, beautiful thing:
We are human.