Love righteousness, you rulers of the earth,
think of the Lord in goodness
and seek him with sincerity of heart;
My mother passed away in 2018* and her funeral was held this time last year. There have been parts of the last year that have been difficult; however, both my parents taught me excellent lessons about both living in the now and not dwelling on a past I can’t change. I’ve done my best to use those lessons.
After the funeral (during the time I was recovering from helping Dad care for Mom) I found myself flashing back to the last few days and remembering Mom in ways that she would not want. Soon, I realized that, if I let this continue, those images would wear a track into my mind and permanently become the first thing that would spring to mind when I remembered my mom.
I didn’t want that.
I was very lucky to have had a good relationship with my mom. We had our differences, but anything major had been ironed out years ago. We had gone on several adventures together to see the world in addition to our more mundane visits to each other.
To help push my many years of good memories to the forefront of my mind, I chose to redirect my thoughts each time one of the sad memories cropped up.
To help me, I kept the slide show of moments with my family (that included mom) on my computer instead of removing it because it might make me sad. That way I saw her every day in ways she would want to be remembered: healthy and enjoying life.
It was difficult, at first, to catch myself when I was tumbling down a sad path of remembrance; but, as the year went on, I got better at it. Just last week a photo of my mom, dad, and kiddo, together and smiling, cycled up on my laptop screen and I found myself spontaneously smiling at the image.
I am very glad that I made the choice to set aside the hard, sad, and scary memories of Mom’s last week and, instead, turn my focus to moments from our various travels together; or moments from my childhood; or to quiet moments sitting on the couch together with a baseball game on while we both worked (or goofed off on) our computers.
This choice** served me in two ways. One: it strengthened the good, loving, and joyful memories I have of my mom. Two: it weakened and caused to fade, many of those sad and difficult memories from her last few weeks. Some of those memories I have chosen to keep. Those few are small treasures that am glad to look at occasionally. The rest have mostly faded into hazy recollections, and that is fine with me.
There is a lot in my life that I have no control over; but I can, in part, choose which of my memories to reinforce and which to let fade away.
I can, in short, look for joy.
Do not invite death by the error of your life,
or bring on destruction by the works of your hands;
because God did not make death,
and he does not delight in the death of the living.
For he created all things so that they might exist;
the generative forces of the world are wholesome,
and there is no destructive poison in them,
and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.
*My essay from that time last year: Come, Thou
**Note: If you are dealing with grief or any other overwhelming emotion and simple things like getting a good night’s sleep or doing something distracting don’t help you regain your equilibrium, please consider meeting with your doctor and seeing if therapy or other mental health treatment is necessary. We have adopted the saying in our family: “If you can’t make your own neurotransmitters, store bought is fine.” So if mediation, redirecting thoughts, getting enough sleep (and enough water) don’t help, see if your doctor or therapist can.
Kristin Fontaine is an itinerant Episcopalian, crafter, hobbyist, and unstoppable organizer of everything. Advent is her favorite season, but she thinks about the meaning of life and her relationship to God year-round. It all spills out in the essays she writes. She and her husband own Dailey Data Group, a statistical consulting company.
© 2019 Kristin Fontaine