Well they say …’the best laid plans of mice and men…’ Where do I start? Almost a year ago on a visit to England, my Mum wasn’t well. By December she was diagnosed with stage iv colon cancer. Since then I have been flying back and forth to spend time with her and help her. Its really a two edged sword. I found myself looking at life juxtaposed with death, happy memories with sad, health with illness, expectations clashing with reality.
For years I had asked Mum to write about her memories, her life, but her pen never met the paper. We realize we are down to her final weeks, I believe, maybe even her final days and its all water under the bridge. As I scan her photos I have questions: how old were you when you met Dad? Where did you meet him? Tell me again about your knee injury? How did you ever get your parents to let you go touring with Dad on a tandem before you were married?!
There are gaps. We gather what we have. Old photos become treasures, a door to a bygone era, a Mother bright and beautiful, full of energy and adventure, a Mother I never knew. How I wish I could have known her then. We ask family members endearingly to take time out of their busy lives to start jotting down the memories as they come, and come they do: the high heel shoes and bleached hair, the Val Doonican records piping through the house, how she would run out and strip off her shirt and bathe in her bra to grab a little sunshine and tan, her cheesecake, her grapes smothered in cream and sprinkled with brown sugar, her legendary Sunday roasts, her brushing my wet hair and insisting it be dried before I go to bed, her devotion to family, her love for small furry things, her fashionista sense, her mad knitting and ironing skills and the list goes on.
Memories can come in fragments, they can come in torrents, they can come in a scent or a tune or a taste. They can come from standing in a certain place or being with familiar faces or as conversations of shared memories are spoken. These are the golden nuggets. Sometimes we don’t get to choose what we remember so when the memories come we cherish what we have. Grab that pen, write it down, text yourself, leave yourself a voicemail, write in your journal, write yourself an email, share it with family members. I have found an interesting phenomena, that as I let these treasures surface and as I skim them carefully off the top of my mind and put them in a safe place, quite often they are followed by another memory and another.
So muster the troops! Call family members! Text them or email them! Ask them to write their memories. Take all these gems and compile everything in a book using software such as found at http://www.blurb.com. As we take the collective memory of many people and add to them the photos we begin to create a picture of a person’s lifetime. Because when all is said and done all we have left of life is memories. Happy remembering!