Often after a loss in my life, I find myself digging through my mental archives trying to remember conversations and experiences with the person who just died. And many times I am disappointed at how little I remember. I can’t remember the many discussions I had with my younger sister Denise as we drove to the library or the grocery store. I lived with my grandmother for several months during my freshman year of college but I have little recollection of what we talked about at the dinner table each night (although I remember her constant reminder that I was not to get married until I finished my education, something she had been denied). After my dad died, I realized how little I knew about his life.
And when my Uncle Hank, also my Godfather, died last week, I searched for the conversations, finding there are few that have stayed with me.
His “Hi Kiddo” still rings through my ears like he’s here with me, but as for what we ever talked about in all those family gatherings as I grew up, I have no idea. My only vivid memories are playing with a toy kitchen set at my grandparents' house and presenting him (along with everyone else) fake chocolates, and my uncle sitting in front of the television in the living room watching his favorite: golf.
It’s disconcerting to me because these people all are part of my life, part of who I am. Yet why do I remember so little? I took time for granted, I took these people in my life for granted, and I took the life events with them for granted. Their words should have stuck with me somewhere. And now there will be no new words or conversations.
But I know my deceased loved ones are still with me. And in particular in the five years since my father died, I know that they remain with me on my path through life, guiding me where I’m supposed to go and helping me become who I’m supposed to be. I understand now that if I was meant to remember those words and conversations, I would. Instead, what my loved ones have to teach me continues to come through as my bond with them has changed, but hasn't broken.
Michelle Linn-Gust, Ph.D., is an international author and speaker about finding hope after loss and change. She is the author of several books including Rocky Roads: The Journeys of Families through Suicide Grief and Ginger's Gift: Hope and Healing Through Dog Companionship. Her first book, based on the suicide of her younger sister Denise, Do They Have Bad Days in Heaven? Surviving the Suicide Loss of a Si..., inspired siblings around the world in their survival after a loved one’s suicide. She is the President of the American Association of Suicidology and lives in Albuquerque, N.M. Read more about Michelle at www.michellelinngust.com.