If you drive you see them everywhere. You might even have one yourself. I do.
I knew the minute I placed it on my car I would instantly become one of those people others gawk at. Admittedly, I’ve done my share of gawking too. The process takes a matter of seconds from start to finish. We strain to read the name and dates as we leave a haze of exhaust in the rearview mirror, carrying on with our busy day. I’ll leave the sadness in the car behind me, thank you very much.
Until someone we love dies and we become part of the club no one wants to be a member of. The laminated piece of paper that now dons our car window is a traveling memorial which represents our loved one. It keeps their memory alive. For us anyway.
Over time rain, sleet, snow and countless trips to the car wash take their toll and the sticker begins to fade. As we squint to read the fine print, we may ask ourselves, “When did this start to happen?” “Did I even notice?”
I had to wonder if the fading sticker on my car had become a metaphor for my memories slowly fading out of my reach. Sticker or not, have you ever asked yourself similar questions? “How well am I doing at remembering them?”
My son David took his life after smoking a synthetic drug called K2 in the spring of 2010, a week after graduating from high school. He was 18.
The distance between that devastating day, almost 9 years ago, and my world today continues to grow, and so does the gap between my memories. I used to recall the smallest of details about David, but now? I strain to remember what his voice sounded like! I can’t imagine not being able to remember! Photographs and memories are all I have left of him. (That’s a sad but great Jim Croce song btw.)
As life marches on, this gap will continue to widen for all of us, making it harder to remember things like we used to. It’s heartbreaking. It’s also very odd because the memories we may have avoided because they caused us so much pain early on, are the very same memories we’re trying so desperately remember. This has been my experience anyway.
And beyond that, when I think about life events, I tend to place them on the “did it happen before or after we lost David” timeline. Nine years is a long time, but it drives me crazy when the years overlap each other and I question myself. I should know! It feels like an epic fail. It saddens me, and it leaves me with the same void I was left with when we lost him.
The mind plays tricks when we grieve. Why do I listen to the lie that I’m losing my grip on my memories of David? Details might get a little hazy at times, but I remember him. Of course I remember him! This seems stupid even as I write this. Geez! Such as life in the confusing journey of grief. Am I the only one who struggles with this?
Our memories ebb and flow. Maybe that’s how it’s suppose to be. Maybe God protects us when our loss is fresh, and surprises us with the gift of beautiful memories in the years that follow when we need them most. Maybe I’m making way too much of a simple thing.
Still, when the elements of time compete with our memories we can be fooled into thinking we’re somehow forgetting them. We need to cut ourselves some slack. This is not a reflection of our love for them. Our loved ones live in our hearts. That will never change. At some point however, we need to fight our way out of the fog, and retrieve our precious memories. If we don’t take action nothing will change. So Fight.
Take a deep breath. The process of jumpstarting memories you thought were forgotten will take you straight into the pain of your loss. It’s okay. Grab some Kleenex. Grab that photo album. Start a new one. Restore old family videos to DVD’s and watch them. Ask others to share their memories with you. It’s not as awkward as you think. You will both blessed as you reminisce. Older memories will comfort you as they rise to the surface again, and new ones can be clung onto with newfound joy.
And if memories of your loved ones were less than perfect, search for something good, something positive, no matter how minuscule. Forgive what needs to be forgiven, and salvage what can be salvaged, then grasp onto it. Make a commitment to finding peace and contentment with it. Let it be enough for you.
Grieving people need to fight against the ‘woe is me’ mentality at every turn. Feeling bad that we can’t remember things like we used to is just one example. There are many others. You know this to be true. If we don’t take action nothing will change.
Our love for those we lost will NEVER fade, and we will NEVER forget them because they live in us. Push your way out of the fog once again and jumpstart your memory banks. The heart remembers everything. We just need a little help from time to time.
With heartfelt prayer for healing,