Sunday, May 18, 2008

Secrets and the Place for Exceptional Memories

Grief colors my world. It is the lens through which I view most everything. I was cleaning out my drawer this morning and came across a note written by a then-seven-year-old boy in love with his mother. The note read:

This is to you mom.
I love you more than life itself.
You are the best mom ever
and when I say ever
I mean

Josh had written me this note, folded in into a tiny pocket that contained a photograph of us together that he'd found in an old album. Most every mother I know would save such a tender memento. Many would have a special place in their homes for such exceptional things for their children's children, so that in two decades they can narrate each treasure, reconstruct and reminisce a childhood past.

Most mothers do not know what I know. They do not know the secret.

So, I took the sweet note and put it into a large storage box, my place for exceptional memories, that holds my children's cherished nuggets. And while exploring amongst the many things in my place of memories, I realized that I saved more than the average mother. I even saved the word "love" scrawled on a tiny corner of a paper napkin, with a red, quasi-heart shape drawn by Josh at age three with a backward "L" and an "E" that resembled his age at the time. I saved every tooth. Every photograph. Every expression of love and every piece of art. I stockpile and hoard memories like a bereaved mother.

I do not save only for their future. I save also for the what ifs; that one in twenty-thousandth chance that I will lose one of my other children to death. It seems unfair to live in constant awareness of life's fragility. I wish I did not know the secret. I wish I'd never been shown. Yet, I do know. I am aware, and I cannot feign ignorance.

I know that you do not forgive yourself easily when a child dies.

I know that no alcohol, no pill, no distractions, and no book can cure the pain.

I know that children can and do die, and that Death is a cruel and unforgiving victor.

I know that there are no guarantees, and that control is an illusion.

I know that good, competent mothers sometimes lose their children, while unloving, neglectful "mothers" sometimes get to keep theirs.

I know that one day, one year, ten years, twenty years, and fifty years is never enough time with your child.

I know that there is no accepted trade, nothing you can barter, to renegotiate your child back to life, not even offering yourself instead.

I know the secret that life goes on, but not really.

So day-by-day, I seek to live in the moment. I feel compelled to save, cherish, hold, adore, and express, wanting no regrets that accompany not saying that which needed saying and not having enough memories. After all, what's a grieving mother to do with such a burdening secret, such a recondite reality? That is, allow it to help me love more profoundly and surrender to the awareness that each moment, every breath, may be the last.

1 comment:

Corinne O said...


I thought I was the only one who did this. Thank you for sharing this scary and insightful glimpse at one facet of parenting after losing a child.

I too have a box of tidbits and scraps, all the cards, and even notes that I have jotted down of things they have said that were especially "them" or funny and endearing. I can picture us all pouring over these things in the far off future, but I save them for the other reason too.

I know how much I cherish every memento of my deceased daughter, and so I cling to all the reminders of my living ones, not orderly in a pretty scrapbook, but in folders and boxes, as if for emergencies... just in case.

I know the secret too.



The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul

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