The first garden I ever had I made on the hard-packed ground in the corner where the brick chimney met our house. Dad had built planters in the front of our house that he kept blooming with annuals every year. One year, and I think I must have been in high school, as I watched him planting his flowers, I told him I wished I could have a place to plant some flowers myself. And he helped me clear the grass and turn the hard packed dirt over. I bought the flowers and planted them. Then I think I largely ignored them. I have no memory of what happened with that little garden of ageratums.
Memories are funny that way.
The loss of my parents has been huge for me with many ramifications that I never would have imagined in my outlook on life, worldview, and priority list. I think a lot more about my own death now and in particular, what I can do to try to get rid of some of these items I’ve collected over the years so my children won’t be in a quandary about what to keep to honor my work and my memory. It seems like a huge task to me, and likely as the months pass it will fall lower and lower on my priority list. But I think about it now and I never did before.
Memories of my parents come into my mind frequently, always during the nights while I am trying to sleep, and usually when I’m driving the car. It’s not like I’m deliberately dwelling on my parents or their deaths. The memories come unbidden.
I had a revelation about memories yesterday when I realized that all my memories of my parents are intact, and likely always will be. Then I realized that while my parents were alive, they were living, walking, and talking memories. The person in the moment was only a slight shadow of the person of my many memories. I’m not saying that the “slight shadow” wasn’t held dear, and if you had witnessed my grief at their loss over these past four months you would know I am quite sincere. But what I am saying is that as long as I have my memories, I’ll still have a large portion of who my mother and my father were here with me. I think this is what many people tried to convey to me with their words of sympathy.
And I finally got it.
“Grieving is a journey that teaches us how to love in a new way now that our loved one is no longer with us. Consciously remembering those who have died is the key that opens the hearts that allows us to love them in new ways.” — Tom Attig, The Heart of Grief