This was the week that my Granddad died. There’s a hollow feeling to have lost your last grandparent. To know you will never again be someone’s granddaughter. To loose not only a loved one but also an identity. It’s a part of growing up that no one prepares you for. We are born into the world with so many family identities, bound to each other with different ties, we are sons or daughters, siblings and grandchildren. We are given these different lenses through which to understand who we are to each other, how we are connected. Then one by one, through the years, these bond are broken and another label taken from us.
In the end all we have left are memories. What could be slips away, and leaves us only with what was. Present and future becoming past, so quickly and finally. But we have the gift of remembering, and these memories become infinitely more precious, because there will never be more. Our minds are a treasure trove, filled with fragments of days that have been, for us to explore.
I remember afternoons spent playing hide and seek with my sister round my grandparents house, or playing crazy golf, out of a make-shift course from the items Granddad found in the garage. I remember the way he would slip pocket money into our hands before we left, and make us promise not to tell our mother. I remember the pride with which he looked at each of us grandchildren and the love in his voice when he talked about marrying our grandmother. I remember the arguments and the laughter, the hugs and the tears, the love and the loss.
Memories cannot heal or hide us from grief. They will not take away the pain of those empty chairs at weddings or christenings. They cannot bring those we’ve lost back to us. But in our minds we can keep alive the memory of those who have died, to carry our loved ones with us into our futures. We can move forward whilst cherishing those that have gone before us.
Grief is the price we pay for love. It is a reminder that we are alive and connected. That our lives and the lives of those we love matter. We can run from it if we like, but it is an inevitable part of life, and perhaps not one to be feared. It tells us that we have been blessed with a relationship that matters enough that we will grieve its loss, and encourages us to cherish those we have left.
In the end we too will leave only memories in the minds of those we leave behind on this Earth. Maybe it’s not too soon to think about what we want to be remembered for. To wonder how we can leave a legacy in the lives of those we meet. Perhaps we can start to build the kind of memories that will outlast us. To grasp the opportunities life throws at us, to live generously and to keep loving others no matter the cost.