Mental Health Moment | Memory Lane is a Walk Best Shared
Aug 31, 2022
Social media is a great way to capture and record, in photos and videos, a person’s life events and history - much like the old coffee table photo albums full of printed photos, pressed neatly onto sticky laminated pages. But I’ve come to the conclusion that we really love and need social media because of its “sharing” aspect. Looking at photos of times past–whether long ago or recent–is an experience that is intended to be shared. It’s just not as fun to look through photos of you and your two best friends, without being able to have someone right there who remembers it all and can laugh along with you at the experience.
My mother passed away a few years ago and it became my task, and my privilege, to be the sibling who went through her entire house, cleaning out every closet, every drawer, and every memento box that she has stashed away. As I opened each box or drawer, another chapter of life unfolded, a box full of memories and stories. I took photos from albums and scanned them, so that my 3 siblings and I can all have access to every photo my mother had. As I did, I found I was reliving many moments from my life–suddenly finding myself having drifted off into the past, as if I was right there all over again. I wanted to call my siblings one by one, as I found photos of us, and share them, and talk about them. But the process of sorting through the house took almost a month, and it wasn’t feasible to share all of the things I was finding. I just had to find them, sort them, reflect on them, and keep going. It was a lonely task.
I found my mother’s purse as it was when she passed away suddenly, my father’s “pocket items,” and my grandparents’ collections of items that were left when they passed. It seems we are all left with a similar small box at our time of dying--a box that holds things like a wallet with a little bit of cash, a set of keys, our favorite jewelry items, a camera, a driver’s license, a pocket knife, and a pair of glasses. As I looked through them, these items were all it took for me to remember each person, as they were, when they were living their life and making their own memories. Finding the small sets of personal items and photo collections urged me along the pathway of the stages of grief, into acceptance.
I sent the digital photos to my siblings, and shared with my friends, via social media, the funny photos of me as a child, but there was still something missing. There was still the need to lay all these items neatly out on the table, and gather my siblings around me, and show them each and every little thing, and talk about them together. It’s comforting to know I had all of these memory items and the opportunity to explore them piece by piece. And I kept sorting the photos of my kids, family, friends and experiences and posting them online to an invisible audience. But I learned a lesson about what’s important in life, and I started changing what I think my focus and priorities would be going forward, having learned that grief is easier when shared, and memory lane is far better when traveled with a companion.