You’ve lost a loved one: a parent, a spouse, a child. A huge hole seems to have been gouged out in your heart. Their absence is overwhelming at times. The empty spot at the table or in the bed… Special holidays will never be the same again; they tend to bring memories flooding in more than ever, and the hole is bigger than ever.
Yet… those people live on in our memories! Our lives have been enriched by theirs. Reminders pop up unexpectedly, constantly.
Recently I returned to the home where my parents lived for decades. Its new owner, my sister, has left her own imprint on it, and yet there is still so much of Mum and Dad that endears them to me.
Going over albums of photographs galore is a bittersweet experience. They cover decades of achievements and family times. Pics of Air Force times in Great Britain, others of glowing newlyweds or proud graduates, a bushwhacking biologist, babes in arms, a beaming Mum greeting the President of Peru, and so much more.
On occasions classical music wafts from the kitchen, in homage to my Mum.
As we scrub the window screens before putting them in for the summer, I recall how as kids we used to sing songs we learned from Mum to pass the time away, sometimes while one washed dishes and another dried them. My sister pulls one out from the recesses of her memory–White Coral Bells, which I may not have heard since childhood– and the words come back as I join her!
In a recipe book, a note in our mother’s handwriting reminds me where I might find an alternative concoction when I decide to bake something with fresh rhubarb.
The gardens are no exception to the rule. We owe the yumminess of rhubarb and berry plants outside to Dad, as well as the rich colors of flowering shrubs and perennials. My sister’s painstaking work on the garden he toiled over for so many hours is a reflection, too, of his labor of love. The special touch of fresh blossoms in some nooks of the old home reminds me that his spirit lives on.
Fine furniture and old clocks tell stories of my father as well; some he designed himself.
Memories aren’t always triggered by that which we see, hear, or touch. Occasionally, my family members will use one of “Dad’s prayers” for grace at mealtime, concise and simple. These are imprinted in the mind and heart.
Even away from the old home, there are moments which remind me of my heritage. A woman who has never met me before tells me, “You look like your Mum!”
Not all that comes to mind is warm and fuzzy. There’s the room where Dad suffered for so long, and his spidery signature barely recognizable once his sight failed him.
The details of our stories will be different, but surely there is a common thread: Gone but still present, are those loved ones we recall. More than a memory, they remain in our physical resemblance, the objects they left, the habits they instilled, the songs and stories, the recipes and prayers, and even the values that set us on our way.
Indeed, they are knit into our DNA.