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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Entering the new year with old memories

Christmas has ended, and the living room still has that unwrapped look. With the festivities now part of future memories, I anticipate the next hurdle----the new year. The TV commercials romanticize champagne toasts illuminated by glowing candles. People start to make resolutions, hopeful that this brand-new unblemished year will be the one that fuels their successes.

For the parent who has lost a child to death, a new year can be daunting. The first New Years' after my son Daniel's death was scary. I wanted to hold onto 1997. Although it was the year he'd lost his battle with cancer and died, it was also the year he'd lived. 1998 would mark the first calendar year without him.

For some reason, the image of an old-fashioned wooden bucket came to me. With this item I heard the word carry. That's it, my newly-bereaved mind said. The key with a new year is to carry the old into it.

So here we are, on the brink of another year, a new decade, with fresh hopes and dreams. A clean slate. There are many things about 2009 I wish to forgive and forget, but I don't want to ever forget my son.

Each year marks a year further from when I last held him, heard his voice, and saw his smile. I yearn to hug him, tell him how much he's grown, and ask him what he'd like for dinner. My heart feels that distinct hollowness and sorrow that belongs to a mother without her child.

But the bucket I have isn't hollow. It is brimming with memories and fondness, warmed with love and laughter; I hold it tightly.

Just as I carried Daniel's four-year-old memories into 1998, now---thirteen years later---I will continue to carry them. And I will do more than just hold them, I'll let them trickle out, forming their own glow, as I share this special boy with my world. "Wasn't it funny when Daniel called adults redults? Do you remember how he gave stickers away in the hospital, and once when bored made a collage out of baby lotion and glitter?"

Daniel lived, he loved, and I believe he continues to live in Heaven.

So, get yourself a sturdy bucket and carry. Boldly carry the memories into the new year. Along the way, give yourself permission to forgive. Let the memories you recall be the brightest ones.

Listen. There is nothing to fear. Listen. Your child's voice can be heard in your heart.


Tina said...

Lovely. Thank you for sharing your heart.

Alice J. Wisler said...

You are welcome, Tina. Thank YOU for your comment.


Kim said...

I appreciate the image of a bucket to carry the old in with the new. I often think of a bucket as being filled with something heavy, perhaps my grief, and as I carry it, I will grow stronger and perhaps, it won't seem as heavy anymore. Perhaps someday, I will be able to let my grief slowly trickle from the bucket. As time passes, perhaps I will be able to place the memories that now seem so bittersweet and often painful, into that bucket and it will be easier to carry. Thank you for giving me hope tonight.

Alice J. Wisler said...

Kim, it takes lots of time. Go gently. There will always be grief, and those bittersweet memories I am too familiar with from my early days of new grief, can crop up. I think we have to let the happier and less painful memories fill our days so that our hearts don't become too calloused. But there again, this takes time.

Thanks, Kim, for reading and for posting.

bp said...

Thank you for sharing. I will share this with friends.

Tammy Nischan said...


I just was connected with you through my friend Mary Beth Whelan. I love the thought of the bucket......I lost my daughter to SIDS in 1992 at 6 1/2 weeks old and my 13 year old son to brain cancer in November of 2008.......carrying my children's memories with me as I trudge through this grief journey.

Thank you.

I look forward to getting to know you better in the years to come.