When you lose someone close, it’s the memories that bring them back to life again. The holidays are particularly hard, so when my heart aches for Zach and I need to feel close to him again, I put on my headphones, tap on a playlist of songs from when he was alive, and I travel back to better times when he was still here. I replay the memories much like I replay the songs, both are well worn and loved.
But the thing about losing someone is that you not only miss their physical presence, you miss having new memories to draw from. There will be no more new notes for your mind to dance through, no more new lyrics to delight in. Just the same old album on repeat. At times you find yourself picking up the album, but then setting it back down because you know there is nothing new to bring you comfort, and that fact just makes you sad and opens up a whole new chapter of grief.
This is the time of year when families come together, share in the joy of the season and create new memories. For families who have lost a loved one, the hole that is left by the one who is missing becomes even more evident and the sadness deeper. But don’t mistake that sadness as a message of wanting to forget. The greatest gift that you can give to someone who has lost a loved one is the gift of a memory. Some of my favorite memories of Zach are ones I wasn’t even present for.
I remember Zach making snow angels with his girlfriend, Amy, because her neighbor wrote a blog post about it. I remember how he consoled a girl who he found crying in the hall at school because she stood in line at his visitation just to tell me about it. I remember how he drove 150mph in a Nissan GTR down highway 94 because his friends finally ratted him out several months after he died (I’m guessing there are other secrets they are sworn to keep that may never get confessed). There are other memories like these that I cherish and will be forever grateful to those who shared them with me.
This holiday season when a random memory of a loved one who has died pops into your head, maybe instead of tucking it away on a dusty shelf in your mind, you could jot it down in a card or an email and send it to someone who will treasure it. Because the gift of a memory never comes too late and it never gets old.