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Category Archives: Memory

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Several days ago, I saw a Daily Post prompt asking people if they hold a grudge or “forgive and forget.” Since then, this topic has been rolling around my brain, so I can assuredly say that I do not forget!

My brain and memories are very important to me. The things that I remember can be painful and did hurt, but they also informed me, taught me, and developed my sensitivity and empathy.

Having taught, I do remember the students, both good and bad, who have been part of the lessons along the way. I have not forgotten the lousy bosses or corporate back-stabbing. I recall my New York commutes and muggings. Those who were selfish, egotistical, mean, rude, disparaging and dispirited are part of the cadre of remembered.

People who behave that way, and treat others that way, are an anathema to me. I cannot possibly understand why they want to be remembered as that kind of person or why they would want others to remember the stupid things they should have forgotten to say out loud!

The bullies have not been forgotten though time has removed some of the sting. Yet, the words have not been forgotten and the body language and facial micro-movements have been catalogued in my brain. My memory has served as a training ground and provided me with people skills and self awareness.

So, do I hold a grudge? Well, I have to keep going and moving forward. But, I never forget. I cannot forget the history of my family and the stories archived of their lives and legacy. History is doomed to repeat itself, so based on all that has occurred in just the last 100 years, as well as the last 100 days, none of us should ever forget the past.

I cannot forget the stigma and shame of people afraid to take medication for fear of what others will say about them or their children. People forget the bravery it takes to tackle personal challenges head on. I cannot forget what economic issues my family experienced, so my empathy is well developed towards others who struggle. The tears that have been shed in grief, loss and despair are not forgotten because I have felt them too.

Watching loved ones’ health deteriorate so severely and completely, I cannot forget the pain I see in someone else’s eyes. I try to remember my manners even when others behave badly; courtesy, kindness and compassion should never be forgotten.

In fact, it really is not ever forgotten. To anyone who has struggled financially, an unexpected check in a birthday card or the kindness of strangers means the world. For someone spending days in the hospital, and nights alone, a cup of coffee or a check-in call really can be a life saver. An individual so split with grief cannot think about the numerous errands and demands of daily life and will cry with relief when someone offers a helping hand. The flowers received or the laugh shared helps to temporarily forget the difficulties and traumas that still lie outside the door.

Caring and compassionate behavior has the power to change lives and move worlds. Kindness is the Grace of memory.

To the people I wish I could forget, I will remember the lies you said to my face and behind my back always. It is a reminder of what people can do to others in the name of the ego and false friendship.

To the people who helped to light my path when it was dark and desolate, you gave me a gift that I will always remember. It is my hope that I will share it with as many people as I can and that they will remember to share it with others. Your kindness and example will not be forgotten, and while I may not carry a grudge (on the outside), I will carry a grin in my heart and growth within my soul.

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For some reason, in the last two weeks, a couple of people have made comments to me that it is amazing how quickly time has gone by, as it is almost a year since Mom passed, and I should be feeling better. People don’t know what to say, or how to make conversation, or are just really obtuse. I don’t want to call them stupid, but it might be time to change the batteries in their empathy chips when we turn the clocks back tonight.

I don’t count the days since my Mother has passed. I count long months, tears, memories and the knowledge that I am no one’s favorite. It has been ten months since my Mother passed and nine months since my Grandmother passed on. The period of time watching each of them deteriorating has chipped at my heart of glass and left sharp craggy edges.

I still weep copiously at the sight of my mother’s photos and I wonder when she comes to visit, as a spirit from the Light, if she will linger long enough to leave a message in my dreams.

People want grief to be defined and confined to some statute of limitations. Here is the thing that you need to remember: Grief is Messy. It does not care about times or decorum. It hits when it is most inconvenient or when anything special happens in your life. It makes you weep at the hole in your life without a Significant Other who loves you and thinks you are funny, witty and special.

Loss is a plant that never dies; it has deep roots, with periods of growing and waning, fresh bursts, and blossoms in its season, but can never be fully harvested.

People tell me not to be angry at G-d as it was His decision and his judgment. I am not; my mother was lucky to move to a better life out of her imprisoned body. However, I still miss my Mom.

I am very aware of how much time has passed and the dates on the calendar that mark holidays and other major occasions in our lives. When babies are born, I want to call her and share the news and the photos. As my father prepares to walk down the aisle as a proud Grandfather in two weeks’ time, we are well aware of her absence.

This is not a time of crossing X’s on a calendar counting down to some date of freedom. My mother’s spirit was set free and for her it was a joyous reunion with family long since gone. But, for me, I am chained to the date with full knowledge of what it means. The calendar is a masquerade of days. It is not a sign of moving forward; rather it is a measure of the time I have been looking back over my shoulder to see what is left behind.

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I have been told that I am negative, don’t give myself enough credit, need to try harder, don’t cry, it is what it is.

Well, quiet acceptance has not been my way; with each loss, there have been losses! It is not purely that what does not kill you makes you stronger. Sometimes, the fact that it did not kill you is the best thing you can say about the experience. Also, the people who told me that I am negative, don’t give myself enough credit, need to try harder, don’t cry, and it is what it is, were not trying to comfort me. They did not say these things so that I would feel better. They said them at the time to prove their point of what they think I am and what they think I am not capable of. They said these things to make themselves feel better and stronger and more important. That is not comfort, nor confidence. That is arrogance.

So here is a reminder for you, and I, when the times are tough, the mood dreary, and the critics rough.

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When we lose someone we love, they take our history, memories, and shared experiences with them. Regardless of our age, we are always children, siblings, parents, spouses, and grandparents.

The first question I am asked is “How old was the person who died?” Despite some rationalization and equivocation for the other person, the mourning and grief is real. The children have lost a parent. It does not matter how old the parent was when she passed, it is a large loss and gaping hole in the hearts of the children.

We are mourning yet another loss to our family structure. Our uncle passed away two days ago. My 85 year old father-in-law said, in his sadness, “My little brother died.” We are reduced to another age in the fluidity of time with memories of summers on the beach, dinners with grandparents, holidays and birthdays. The person who knows and shares your story is gone. You become the lone storyteller with no one to embellish your memories or enhance the details. The witness to the milestones of your life is gone.

Painfully, it is a reminder that you are the remaining mourner, on your own, carrying the bulk and breadth of your family history.

Whether other people lack experience, maturity, or empathy, the loss remains. That is the intangible in the hazy shape-shifting of life. For anyone who has lost someone they love, they can choose to reach out in condolences and understanding to another. It is incomprehensible to someone who has not been in that circumstance. Pain recognizes pain and is capable of extending kindness to another with the knowledge of how extraordinarily helpless it feels standing in the shadow of sorrow. People still walk past you. Heads bob in traffic caught up in their tiny little worlds. How could the world still go on? Don’t you realize who passed and what their contributions meant?

The fingerprint of grief lies indelibly on our hearts.

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