This week was "momento night" at the grief group I'm co-facilitating.
The idea is, each of the widow(er)s brings in an item to share with the group from their late spouse. The item can be anything: a piece of clothing, jewellery, a photo, something their spouse made, their favourite book, etc. It then gives the griever an opportunity to share in depth about their husband/wife. Perhaps tell a story, share a memory, or talk about something that has helped them in their journey.
It's always a very emotional night for everyone and can bring up many, many tears.
Part of my job as a co-facilitator is to bring in an item of my own to help get the ball rolling.
I knew this was coming before I ever signed up (because I remember it from my own group), but still I procrastinated picking something out. It's not that I don't want to share about Craig. Rather, I carry so many momentos with me all the time, I knew it would be tough to find one that really captured his essence, the spirit of who he was, and exactly how much he means to me.
Basically a couple hours before I had to go I finally decided I could put it off no more.
I pulled out my "boxes" and began what I thought would be a quick glance through to find something I liked.
The very first box had Craig's license plate, bent and mangled, right on top. Underneath that was the stack of photos from the accident that were in the newspaper and on tv. Under that, card after card, letter after letter, from the funeral. Yes, I kept every single one.
The next box was all the photos from the funeral and the one after that had Craig's journals, diaries, and love letters.
There weren't a ton of boxes, but it sure felt like it.
Just lifing the lid from that very first box, seeing the broken glass and dirt still streaked on everything I pulled from the car, was like a sucker punch to the gut.
I ended up sitting on the floor, crying my eyes out, pouring over each item one at a time. Two hours later I realized I was going to be late and frantically rushed to wipe the snot and mascara off my face, dashing out the door.
It made me realize something very important.
I was telling someone that it upset me because I rarely looked at that stuff anymore. In fact, it's probably been about a year since I pulled out the boxes and went through them like that.
Because I don't want to remember the sad stuff anymore.
I keep Craig's picture (a couple of them actually) in my office. When I sit down to write, there he is, grinning back at me.
I have a photo of him I keep in my wallet where he tragically wrote, "hopefully you won't need this picture of me to remember my face in 20 years" across the back.
I have 2 letters from him (my favourite out of the 100+ I've kept) in my purse. In it he tells me that I am smarter than I think, that I am brave, that I can do anything. I don't need to read them anymore. I know the words off by heart.
On my right hand is my ring - the one I designed that is made from both sets of our wedding bands.
In my car I keep the jade bear talisman he bought for me on our first trip to Radium. I feel safer when I drive just knowing it is hanging from my rearview mirror.
These are the things that make me smile. They make me feel better.
At some point along the way, a shift happened.
I began to remember my husband as my friend, my lover, the guy who could always make me smile. Instead of reliving scenes of the accident, I relived the scenes from our life. Instead of agonizing over his final moments, I laughed about the way he'd dance with me in the kitchen. Instead of pain and suffering, I started to feel joy and happiness that I got to have him, for what little time I did.
It's not that I don't care about the accident. It's that the accident was preceded by one hell of a decade. And that decade is the one that I want to look back on.
Oh, and in case you are wondering, the momento I brought was a card he gave me on my birthday. Inside it he wrote:
"I would have hoped that being older in body and mind that you would have blossomed into a mature young woman.
However, I can see you plan on staying young forever.
Please stay young forever, I don't want to be left behind.
At times in our life our own spark goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another.
You are my spark."
Like I said, these are the things worth remembering.