When I was ten years old my grandmother gave me an Avon Small World Blond Girl Fragrance Glace Pin. Long name for such a simple gift, but I loved it! It made me smell good too. I keep it safe in a drawer along with other throwback treasures; a Ballerina watch, a Charlie the Tuna watch, a birthstone ring from my parents, hand-painted ceramic necklaces my boys surprised me with one Mother’s Day, and my Uncle Bob’s tobacco pipe. I may or may not have overflow items in my closet.
When I want to step back in time and reflect on these and other memories I know exactly where to find them. They make me smile. They warm my heart.
Well, I’ve outgrown the pin, the rings, and the watches, and I don’t wear my priceless hand-painted ceramic necklaces anymore, but I can still smell the faint scent of tobacco from my uncle’s pipe. I love that.
All gifts are powerful in the moment, aren’t they? They are especially meaningful after you’ve experienced loss.
Where do you put all of the sentimental keepsakes you’ve acquired over the years, the ones you could never throw away? Come on, I know you have a special place for them.
I love the thought of keeping those we love close to our hearts, whether in the corner of our closet or tucked away in a sock drawer, these tangible reminders are precious. You can see them and touch them as they direct you to the official memory catcher, the place dedicated to housing all you hold dear. Look down and to the left a bit. There it is, your heart.
In June 2010 our family was devastated. One week after graduating from high school our 18-year-old son David smoked a synthetic drug called K2 with a group of friends. He took his life 90 minutes later. A couple of months later my husband and I attended a memorial tree planting ceremony at the high school. A bronze plaque was placed at the base of David’s tree which reads, In Loving Memory of David Rozga. Class of 2010, 4-ever in our hearts.
Soon, a sea of green and gold balloons filled the sky. Green Bay Packer colors of course. We all watched until the balloons became tiny dots in the sky. You could have heard a pin drop. It was so emotional, so special.
I didn’t want the balloons to disappear.
As the evening concluded, a few of my bible study friends took me aside and gave me an incredible gift. It was a flat, sterling silver charm, about the size of a nickel. How thoughtful of them. But this was no ordinary charm. As I looked closer, I noticed it had ridges in it.
This is David’s thumbprint Jan, his actual thumbprint. It’s a Thumbie.
On our way home that night my husband asked, “Will it be weird to wear David’s thumbprint on a necklace?” I hesitated, “For a mother who lost her son, I don’t think so.”
I knew that the process of taking David’s fingerprints would have been done after his death, which was a little unnerving to think about, but in the fragile weeks that followed, I found tremendous comfort in this very personal keepsake.
During the raw nights after we lost David, before closing my eyes to sleep, I swear I could see his tall frame standing at our bedroom doorway to let us know he was in for the night, just like he used to.
Hey Mom. I’m home. Love you. Night.
I love you too honey. Night.
This sucked the air out of me. I will never hear those words from David again. I will never have that peace at the end of the day, knowing that he is home, safe and sound.
This went on for months. The routine was always the same; with tears in my eyes, I would straighten the charm on my necklace, hold it tight and pray myself to sleep.
When I finally decided to share this with my husband, I found comfort in his encouraging words.
“He is home, Jan. He is safe. He’s in Heaven with God.”
I’ve worn this charm dangling on my silver chain ever since. I rarely take it off. David is always close to my heart and as I lightly brush my fingers over each groove of his beautiful thumbprint, I’m reminded of who he was, where he is, and Who he is with. This truth brings me such comfort.
The pain of remembering a loved one who has passed away can bring joy and thankfulness as you cherish the time you had with them. I would even say that the pain of challenging or even traumatic memories serves a purpose as well. This gives you the perfect opportunity to work through what you would otherwise suppress. We all want healing and peace as we walk through our grief journey. You might also be surprised that forgiveness can follow as well.
So, whether it be a private moment as you dust off the Rubbermaid bin, the shoe box in your closet, or alongside someone you’re close to, grab the Kleenex and go to the place where you keep all of your treasured keepsakes. Your heart will do the rest.
Remember. Reflect. Give thanks. Repeat.
Now is the time to make great memories. Be that obnoxious mom or dad and take as many pictures as possible because the memories you make today will become the cherished reflections your loved ones will cling to in the future.
*Read more about Thumbies at http://www.thumbies.com.