Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Monday, June 24, 2019

Keeper of the Memories

One of the toughest things I've experienced in the ten months since my husband died has been carrying the burden of our memories. I would never have expected memories to be anything other than a pleasant, welcome diversion. One of the frequent comments people made was something to the effect of "You had so many good years together, and all those memories."

Like those who made the comments, I too would have thought it would be a positive thing. Having 48 years together was lovely, although naturally I wanted more. Reflecting back on our life should be a comfort, right? 

In a way, yes and in a way, no. When something comes up from our past, whether good or bad, who do I share it with? I can't turn to Bruce and say, "Remember when....?" Instead, it stays within, crying to be shared with the one who, like me, knew it from firsthand experience. 

How I'd love to talk over some of those rough times with him when they come to mind:

"How did we ever get through it?" 
"Things worked out pretty well after all, funny about that."
"What do you wish we'd done differently?"
"Here's what I learned from it, how about you?"

Being left as the sole keeper of the memories is not as pleasant as one would expect. It can be a lonely job. In the book The Giver by Lois Lowry, there's the giver and the receiver of memory. The receiver's duty is to take in memories of the society from the giver. When the giver passes on, the receiver carries on until a new receiver shows up, and then the other becomes the giver.

I think I need to appoint someone in my family as Receiver and I will be the Giver, for as long as it takes. Although in the book, they are not appointed, they just are. So I'll keep my eyes out for the right one.


23 comments:

  1. Wonderful, heartfelt post Karen. The role of memory keeper, historian is vital to families. I turned 60 recently and I am gathering up the info, logging it, blogging it and passing it on to the next generation. It's what we must do.

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    1. Donna, And one day your family will be so glad you did!

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  2. Someone does need to remember what you remember. I think of what my grandmother knew and the stories she told. Many are gone.
    My prayers with you...

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    1. Yes, we always think we'll record our parents or grandparents or perhaps interview them. I finally did that with my mother when she turned 90, and it became my first book Farm Girl. I'm so glad I didn't put it off any longer as she died 3 years later.

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  3. You are right about memories. I lost my mom a year and a half ago and this is not the same as a partner you love. It still hurts to think of the good memories or the bad. I even hate the fact she is not here so I can talk to her about what’s going on. I talk to her in my head but it feels empty and I hate it. I had the same with my dad and, he has been gone for 33 years and I wish he was around to get his 2 cents worth but the memories are better now. I am not sure how I will be if I am left and my hubby dies before me. It’s a love but a completely different love and not sure how I will feel. I know my mom missed her husband, my dad, and always wished she could still talk with him even years later. The one thing I did notice was that she would smile and even laugh at memories of him late on instead of crying or being silent.

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    1. Birgit, Missing those conversations about all kinds of little things I'd one of the hardest things I think.

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  4. I've lost several dear ones in the past ten years. The only way I got through it was praying for the Holy Spirit to comfort me. In time though, the memories became sweet.

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  5. I've always been one of others who says something like may your memories comfort you. You've made me realize they can hurt too, which I had never thought about. I hope you find that person to become the receiver of the memories.

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  6. I didn't think about someone keeping the memories that much until the past few years when I realized there were people and events I'm not sure about or don't remember and the only person I could ask is my mom. And she died in 2011.

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  7. This is a beautiful post, Karen, and I have learned so much from it. I hope you find a dear one in your family to share your memories and give you comfort.

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  8. Memories are heart-squeezer.If they didn't, they'd be trifles.

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  9. It has been over four years now since Errol died. At first I was upset for him, he was so alive, then he wasn't. It didn't seem right, somehow. Then the memories would come, simple little things, like driving to the store, shopping for food together, seeing a sign we both marveled at when we firs moved up here "Chains Required." And so on. I would cry in the car in order to not upset the dogs. Now, there's one picture of him I have on a cabinet in the bedroom and I talk to it. I read that Nancy Reagan used to do that too and thought it was weird. Now it seems perfectly normal. And now, it's safe to say, I'm happy again with my life as it is. Hope all this makes some sense. I know it's hard and we grieve in different ways. Sending lots of love your way.

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    1. Inger, It sounds like we grieve in very similar ways actually. Thank you for sharing your experience. I've done most of this except for the part about being happy with my life as is, but I'm working on that and know I will get there

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  10. I am so sorry for your loss. We are at #47 and know that each day is precious.
    My dad was the storyteller of the family and now I am. My WIP site is: susankanewriter@blogspot.com. I don't think I will ever finish the stories to be told. There are so many.

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    1. Susan, it's wonderful that you are the keeper of your family memories and can use your writing talent to share the stories.

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  11. Oh Karen, I've been out of blogging for so long I totally didn't know about your husband. I am so so sorry for your loss. This post is so poignant. One of the things I'm doing since turning 70 is writing a narrative to go with a picture book i'm creating - perhaps you could consider something similar to leave for your children

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    1. Hi Karen, what a nice idea! Glad you're back into blogging. I've been gone awhile too but really missed it.

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  12. Dear Karen, I have the book, "The Giver," on my bookshelf (a gift from a friend) but have never read it. Now I will. Thank you for telling us about it. And thank you, too, for sharing your thoughts on finding a receiver who will receive your spousal/life memories. You came to my blog when a dear friend of mine died and I wrote an eulogy and now I'm reading about your loss. I have a receiver--her husband. Both of them had become my friends over the forty-some years of my knowing Pat. But I'm wondering who will be your receiver? One of your children or will it be a friend of yours or someone you haven't met yet and when you do you can "write your memories" on the clean slate of that person's memory. Peace.

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    1. Dee, I don't yet know who will be the Receiver in my life. I imagine at some point I'll put pen to paper and the memories will flow. But right now I'm too busy trying to create this new life for myself and by myself to dwell. Some days I can face it but not always. I hope you enjoy The Giver. It's a fabulous book!

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  13. My Daddio was my age when my mother died (67). He missed her terribly but, as must be done, muckled on. He lived 19 more years,remarrying a wonderful woman. When he died my stepmother brought we three siblings all his personal papers,letters, photos and journals. One of the treasures was a series of letters he wrote my mother after she died. He was working through both his grief and his recovery from alcohol, and he needed his best pal to do it with.
    Love you Karen, and my heart goes to you.

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    1. That is so interesting, Jan. I'm sure those letters are a wonderful treasure to you even now.

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  14. Hi Karen - what a lovely way to let us know about how we could cope - it seems you're working on it ... life is difficult, but finding your receiver or perhaps receivers for you from your large family ... will certainly help - by getting those thoughts down.

    Not having children and not the easiest of life ... I've learnt to adjust and work things out for myself and of course I can't pass those on. The blog remains as is - it's mine but doesn't reflect life, yet of course has a great deal in it.

    I'm so pleased you wrote Farm Girl and recorded as many stories as you have been able to - remembering times from your past and earlier generations ...

    Take care and with thoughts - it's not easy, but you'll feel easier as time goes on. All the best - Hilary

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  15. Hi Karen,

    I certainly can understand where you are coming from. When my mother passed ages ago, I was left as the receiver... sadly I have no one to pass on the lovely memories. No children, no nieces or nephews, just the few friends who I've become close with and at times I relate a memory. At least you have children and grandchildren to pass on the memories, that should be a great comfort to you. As you keep living, new memories will develop and hold dear to you. DON'T dwell so much in the past and not enjoy and appreciate the present. You still have many years of life and happiness...live them to the fullest!

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