Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Details - Hoarding Memories

I always say that if any kind of crime happens on my watch, I hope the cops and the lawyers aren't counting on me to be an accurate witness.  I usually either don't notice the details of what's going on around me or I don't remember them, but either way, I would be the world's worst witness in many situations.  

I remember lots of details from while my dad was sick though, and at this point the events of that time play out in my brain like an old-timey movie.  Some parts of it are crystal clear with very vivid details, some have more of a blurry or grainy quality to them, and during other parts the screen just shows several frames of blackness in a sequence.  Some of the film is very sad to watch.  Some of it brings tears to my eyes out of happiness, though, not sadness.  I'm not sure if the parts that are blacked out are better off left missing or should be recovered; for now, I am busy processing the other frames.

One thing that we were lucky to have during the time that Dad was sick was the awareness that some moments in the time we spent with him could likely be ones we needed to hold in our memories forever, like one day in early December when I was driving the car with him in the passenger seat on our way to get a large Diet Coke with extra ice from Sonic for him.  It began to snow a lot, and he started belting out the song "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas." Dad was very musically gifted and had a beautiful voice, and, listening to him as the snowflakes barrelled into the car's windshield as we drove down the windy two-lane road that day, I remember thinking "I am going to remember this forever."  At that point, I thought we would have him for at least a couple more years instead of just a few more weeks, but I did know at the time that the memories needed to be hoarded just in case.

It would be so easy to look back at what wasn’t handled exactly right during Dad's illness, but, following his example, I want to look more at and remember the things that happened that were right.  I want to be sure that I remember him as he was during my whole life, not just during the ten weeks that he was battling cancer.  I want to be certain that the many lessons he taught me are always part of who I am and that I have those readily available to share with my children, my nieces, my nephew, and other generations to come.  I want to remember every wrinkle on his face, his smile, his voice, his hands, his laugh, his smell, his walk, his voice, everything ... This time, I hope I noticed all of the details, and I really hope I remember.

"Understanding grief may only come when we surrender:  surrender our need to compare our grief, surrender our self-critical judgments, and surrender our need to completely understand.  Surrender is not the same as resignation; surrendering to the unknowable mystery is a courageous choice, an act of faith, a trust in ourselves."  
-- Alan D. Wolfelt

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