“Simple,” she said, with a faraway smile. “Who knew?”
Whether you are the parent of a child who has died, or not, we are all familiar with the act of packing away and/or giving away objects that symbolize our dreams or memories. This could be as simple as going through your closet and sending things off as donations…as nostalgic as handing down an old high school uniform or musical instrument to the next family member in line…or as devastating as packing up baby clothes and toys that you had intended for your child who died.
In each case, there is a sense of longing for a past that is no more, and a present that came too soon. In each case, we are reminded that life is about change, whether we are ready for it or not.
“Didn’t you take a picture?” my friend asked me when I sobbed about my baby’s things being gone. I had just finished telling her that, finally, after six years, my husband and I had found the courage to pack up boxes of baby clothes and toys that had been intended for my five children who had died…articles passed down to them by their big brother, Julian. During the packing process, I had been brave…
…this is easy…let it go…time to move on…
…but when my husband drove the car away, with the delicate objects packed inside to hand over to a charity, a new part of me died–WAIT!–because suddenly, I wasn’t ready. Suddenly, it felt like I was losing my children, all over again.
“Next time take a picture! Because it isn’t the object you want,” my friend soothed, “it’s the memory that the object contains. If you take a picture, you have it forever and you can look back on it whenever you need to. In that way,” she smiled, “all things, symbolically, stay alive. An object just takes up space, while a picture, on the other hand, can calm your heart.”
She was right. It was too late, but she was right. Having unused baby toys and clothes around me had only served as a reminder of what would never be. A photo was enough. I didn’t need shelves filled with boxes of things that I could no longer use. I just needed a memory, of the happy times…and the sad.
And so now, I say to you…”Take a picture.” Before you donate or throw away anything that touches your heart, take a picture. Because, what is that old saying? Ah yes…”A picture says a thousand words,” to which I’d like to add…”and a picture dries a thousand tears.”