We all mourn the passing of Ted Lindgren but in spite of hope and some sense that he would live forever, we understand that all life ends with death and that our existence ends … The existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sarte was wrong in one sense because every life, like Ted’s, lives on with something, that is not nothing. Memories are living things and our memories of Ted are of amazement and wonder; his accomplishments are unforgettable and will remain an example for all who follow. Those who follow may not match his accomplishments academically and those parts of life that brought him joy. Because of his disability from a stroke, over nearly two decades, much of his mindfulness may be fragmentary and left with those who were closest to him across those years. We saw Ted on Zoom calls from his nursing home bed and always felt joy with his smile and wave to us.
I for one regret that so much passed across time between my brief encounters with Ted as a teenager, playing ball with a younger cousin on the lawn in front of the big porch of the Lanyon farm house, and the life-changing event his stroke. During those nearly 60 years, I was too busy with my life and struggle to put into place a structure for living, working and enjoyment of what was closest to me. In those missing years, I knew that Ted graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in engineering, that he and his brother Carleton had moved beyond Ames, living and working on the east coast, but there was too little that passed from the RR to me through my parents other than as small talk that could be recognized but passed off in favor or more immediate matters of mind. I knew that Ted went on to more advanced study and degrees, as it turned out a PhD in electrical engineering and inventions of brushless motors that led to patents and probably issues of what are now known as technology transfer matters involving the financial exploitation of intellectual property.
That story is important to our family and my hope is that Anne, John and Lisa will write about it for all of us to learn and reflect on Ted’s accomplishments and struggles. Those years must have had enormous meaning for Ted and Bet as well as their children’s lives—family life in Texas, Up state New York and Florida was undoubtedly impacted in too many ways to count. We always know far too little about the life of another. That applies most directly to the physical part of life; when and where events occurred, what happened, what changed. We can create timelines — our physical chronology — of those physical event of birth, death, marriages, children, divorces, attending schools and college, hobbies and recreations, memberships in organizations and employment in place and time; but our access to the cognitive and even emotion (unless these may have physical manifestations) is often at best elusive. The cognitive may have physical manifestations such as writing and recording, with drawing (sketches or meticulously detailed, artistically executed, beautiful paintings), photographs and movies or video, and especially writing of notes, journals, letters, or formal papers and applications are important artifacts to sustain memories of a life.
Our hope is that Ted’s life is remembered through those physical artifacts that he left with his children and now his grandchildren who remember better than his more distant relatives ever could. We are reminded of our questions that were not or could not be asked of our parents, grandparents, great grandparents. These questions not asked don’t linger well, but nevertheless are points of importance for the future because they represent a part of our gaps, our ignorance most which cannot be recovered.
With death there is always a loss. Love lingers and is now represented in memories, only memories and the special thoughts that arise when we encounter the artifacts of a life once lived and now gone for eternity. From earthly eternity. Earthly life goes on and an important part of what remains are memories, which are fleeting but supported by the physical artifacts. I hope we all rededicate our efforts to capture those memories and artifacts of our ancestors; parents remembered by children and recorded … digital recording and the analogue film and vocal files are ephemeral or potentially ephemeral. We can capture our moments for the future now with written records of what we remember. It is hard but important to take a blank page and begin simply; “I remember …”.
Gathering memories and artifacts are certainly for us but should be mostly for our offspring who otherwise will never know of the amazing accomplishments that surround our lives … no matter how big or small … no mater of impact … no matter how seemingly mundane or how stimulating. We are not judges but only recorders for some future time that we cannot fully appreciate or even contemplate. What we have missed may bring tears—but our hope that all of those tears are of joy aid not overwhelmed by our notable sadness at the moment of passing. Life is amazing. Ted’s life was certainly amazing and we will cherish our memories of his life and accomplishments and his family.