Grief and Sadness are regular companions of mine. I don’t fight them as hard anymore but I do wear a mask over them most days. If two’s company then Grief and Sadness are a very accommodating crowd. I can experience a loss and process all those feelings but it amazes me how how the next loss, as is natural and expected in this life, raises those seemingly resolved feelings and memories right back to the surface. Which each loss I am revisited by the last loss.
Today marks the one year anniversary of the death of my Aunt Susan. I miss her terribly. My children miss her terribly. Her children miss her terribly. I know exactly where she is and I am so jealous and grateful at the same time. There is no cancer eating away at her anymore. There is no reason to put on the heroic mask anymore. But with that memory brings joy and pain. Joy in so many, many memories of being loved by her. Of laughing as a little girl into my adulthood with her. Of being in her kitchen watching her experiment. Of watching her climb through tunnels and down slides with my kids. But pain in the knowledge those are the only memories I am allowed.
This loss reminds me of recent friendships and relationships I’ve had to let go of as the continued result of God’s pruning in my life. Of losing my own mother to cancer. Of friends that have moved away. Of a father who battles the demons of mental illness. Of a family disconnected by death, divorce, and ego. Of just how life is not how you expected it to be. And it leaves me sad and longing for more but of what I’m not sure. I can be surrounded by scores of people but still feel alone and left behind. The slightest things can provoke memories that remind me of what has been taken from me. A photograph, a song, a stack of books, a phrase, a meal all contain some memory that not only reminds of a the person but of a specific event or conversation and I can’t seem to outrun them.
Mem Fox is one of my favorite children’s authors. In her book Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge Fox tells the story of a little boy who lives next to an old person’s home. His favorite friend Miss Nancy is losing her memory so Wilfrid Gordon sets out to find memories for her and save them in a box. Wilfrid Gordon learns from his older friends that memories are things that make you laugh, make you cry, and are warm and precious and from long, long ago.
It’s a fight for me to view most memories as warm and precious but it’s true. Those memories are the gifts we have to somewhat fill the void that has been left. It’s not an imitation but a place marker for things and people and times in my life I have loved. They may make me sad and cause me to cry but they may take me to a place I haven’t been in a very long time and relive a happy time. I think it’s time I start looking at memories and loss as an adult and see the gift in all of it.
What warm, sad, funny, precious memories are in your box?