I read an article on grief the other day, one of many that I’ve come across since Mom died. The gist of the article was that grief never really goes away- you just learn to live with it, to carry it. I think that is true- at least it seems to be so for me. This sounds like a sad thing, but I really don’t think it is; great love never dies, so why should your memories of it- all the parts of it? I lead a busy, happy life- I have “moved on” from Mom’s death…but my memories of her are indelibly stamped on my heart and mind. I remember the many wonderful experiences we had, the challenges, and the events surrounding the end of her life still feel fresh- sometimes more than others. I don’t want to leave those memories in the past, but rather, learn from them, cherish them. Moving forward doesn’t mean leaving everything behind you as if it didn’t exist; it simply means to continue living with joy and gratitude.
I miss my mother sometimes more than others…and lately has been one of those ‘sometimes’. I’m not always sure what triggers the missing; sometimes it is obvious – a certain holiday or anniversary. Sometimes it is less clear- a rainy day or waking in the darkness and solitude of night. Sometimes something happens and I reach for the phone to call Mom out of long-ingrained habit. Sometimes I stumble upon a memory as I did the other day. I was cleaning out a purse I hadn’t used in a while and came across an appointment card for one of Mom’s many doctor’s appointments, and on the back I had hastily scribbled one of her weekly grocery lists.
I felt the stab of heartache for a moment, but then I smiled. Perhaps that is the evolution of grief? The heartache is healed by a flood of memories that remind you your loved one isn’t really gone from your life- they are just with you on a different way. I thought of those doctor’s appointments, how Mom always dressed with such care, how she would tell her life story to sweet and patient Dr. Ballio every single time. How we would giggle and be silly in the waiting room and in the examination room, and how the nurses who knew us so well would smile. How sometimes we would cry when the news was not so good toward the end, and how much we enjoyed sitting at the drive-thru at Sonic, talking and laughing as Mom sipped on her large chocolate shake.
Embracing these memories doesn’t take away from the life I am living, doesn’t mean that I am choosing to live in the past. They don’t dominate every moment of my day….they are just a part of who I was and who I am. I am a big believer that all parts of our life experience are important- not just what comes next. How sad it would be to never cherish our memories of love, of laughter- and yes, of loss and grief, too. Not to dwell on them, but to honor them and the gifts and lessons that they were and are to us. It is part of being human, and a gift of having love in our lives. In fact, I think that looking back actually helps us to move forward in love and gratitude. Of course, I can only speak for myself. All I know is that when those precious moments of missing come, I will let the emotions wash over me, I will feel what I need to feel…and then I will remember how blessed I was to have such great love in my life…and I will smile.