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Treasure Your Memories ... but Leave Room For More

Adult sisters looking through family photo album

By Theresa Anthony, author, Hope Springs from a Mother's Broken Heart

Recently, my sister and I were tasked with the unpleasant job of going through our mother’s personal belongings. We lost her back in November, but had put off this uncomfortable step in the bereavement process for as long as possible.

So, there we were, side-by-side at our mom's closet, reminiscing about her wearing this or that outfit, as if we were viewing a slideshow of our lives. Whether it was the red Micky Mouse sweatshirt she wore on the family trip to Orlando in 1996 or the bright yellow outfit she wore at the family barbeque in 2013, imagining her in the clothing brought smiles to our faces and cherished memories to the surface.

Among her possessions were several vintage items that belonged to her parents, my beloved grandparents. Situated on top of the kitchen cabinet was my grandma’s cute elephant cookie jar, along with various other whimsical remnants of my mother's childhood home that had been lovingly passed down to her. To this day, I can close my eyes and still smell the fragrant gardenias from the bush outside my grandma’s kitchen bay window, and envision that cookie jar sitting on her kitchen counter some sixty years ago.

For sure, losing a loved one can be very destabilizing, and none of us can avoid such losses. We build our lives around the people we love, so when they pass away, we are left aching to hear their voice again, or to see them smile one last time...just so we can feel whole again.

I write about loss and the grieving process quite a lot, having suffered tragic, untimely losses in my life—including my sister, my son, and my man. Losing your grandparents and parents is terribly painful and difficult, but at least those losses are expected to occur at some point during your life.

Still…you are just never quite ready to lose your mother.

Placing our mom’s clothing into two piles—one to donate and one to toss—was a bittersweet process. After completing the task, my sis and I each selected some items from around the place that held special meaning to us, and then lovingly wrapped them up to carry off, destined to become a part of our own homes.

Just this week, I was blessed to be able to travel to Tennessee to visit my eldest daughter and her family. I soaked up each and every beautiful moment with them. I am becoming more aware with each passing year that I am not the only one acquiring new memories. My presence in the lives of my daughters and grandchildren is being imprinted into their memory banks, just as the presence of my grandparents and parents were imprinted in mine. Someday, it will be my kids going through my closet remembering the outfits I wore at a Christmas gathering or family reunion.

Flying home from my visit gave me time to process our time together and realize how grateful I am to have them in my life. It is important to maintain perspective as you suffer losses in life, to never be so engulfed in grief that you stop appreciating the beautiful souls that still populate your life. I returned home filled to the brim with new memories, as well as a sense of deep gratitude for my loved ones.

The next morning, as I was unpacking, I walked into my kitchen and glanced over at the cute elephant cookie jar that was once my grandmother’s, had been handed down to my mother, and now belongs to me. I walked over to it and placed my hands on either side, drawing up the energy of my lost loved ones, and smiled. To the casual observer, it is just a silly old cookie jar, but to me it is a priceless family treasure.


Theresa Anthony is the author of:


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