Everyone goes through the temporary moment of grieving a loss. It’s incredibly painful, trying to fall asleep as tears stream down the sides of your face. It’s dark and solemn and yet, strangely beautiful. Love is something that cannot be proven by science, but it’s there. It’s proven by what it leaves behind.
I had a loved one die while holding my hand. That’s my memory anyway. It was probably the hardest day in my life. She was very sick and was in the hospital yet again. I was with her just getting through another day. Oddly enough, each evening as we tried to fall asleep, we’d recall times of long ago, and laugh a little. One night I recalled how my parents would give us an elixir for stomach aches from a local Cuban pharmacy. Amazing how it really stopped the aching right away. Maybe it’s because it had a slight bit of opioids? My parents started going to commercial pharmacies after that. But it’s laughable now, or it was on one of those nights we were talking before falling asleep. But one night, she had trouble breathing. I’d call the nurses, and one propped pillows on her lap for her to lean forward on. Suddenly the machines started beeping and she was rushed down the corridor to a better equipped room. I looked into her eyes, she was scared, I was terrified. Her last words to me were to call her husband. I did and came right back to her. I held her hand, I was told I could stay then it all happened so quickly…she was intubated. I heard her gasp, her eyes wide and full of fear. I held her hand as long as I could. That was the last interaction I had with my sister.
“Time heals all wounds,” but leaves scars behind. Thankfully the pain is temporary. Under the scars there are warm memories of summers with our kids growing up before our eyes and home based happy hours. My adult kids and my adult nephews now, look back and I see the warmth generated when we revisit those days.
Before starting treatment, she spent quite a bit of time putting photo albums together for her kids. Today, I have hundreds of photos in my phone, as we all do. But to me there’s nothing like a hard copy photo to frame, display and remind us of a loved one and a memorable day. They are also a trace of legacy and background…roots. I have a small collection of family black and white photos. I just love these because they spark wonder. Each frame is an invitation to meet family members I never met, if only through stories.
I am a person that loves to create. Believe it or not, I am already planning what it is that I am creating as gifts for Christmas this year. I’m not sure what I will be creating just yet, but I do know it’s going to involve photos. After a loss, after time passes, photos are all that we are left with. They serve as reminders. I will admit as I have in past writings, that nostalgia can hurt. But they only hurt me. My kids love seeing photos of themselves when they were children. When people come over, they wander through the photos, smile and find interest in them. They ask questions and lead to some great conversation. They honor the people not with us anymore. They end up being what love leaves behind.