What’s Your Memory? Remembering Everyday Moments

What are your memories of your loved one like? I suppose that’s a personal question, you don’t have to answer it unless you want to. I’m just wondering if other people are like me, in that many of my most frequently accessed and salient memories are ones that seem totally random and inconsequential.

We often have the best recollection for moments associated with high emotion – both good and bad (though these memories are slightly more inaccurate than we tend to believe). This is a well-researched phenomenon and I don’t dispute its truth. As people who are grieving, I know we all grapple with at least a few emotional memories in our darkest times.

However, I’m not interested in your memories of the high-highs or the low-lows. What I’m interested in are the small and nostalgic flashes of memory that involve the oddest things, like the time you went to Blockbuster to rent ‘The Bodyguard’ except when you got there all the copies were out, but then you got lucky and found one in the return bin. Just me?

I’ve been thinking about this these moments since visiting my hometown last December.  Sitting in rooms where my mother’s memory still lingers, driving down familiar streets and noticing everything that’s changed and everything that’s stayed the same, I felt flooded with memory. Not a single one of these memories was terribly significant or special, but put them all together you have a random day-in-thelife. Or a random day in my mother’s life, I suppose. I don’t know why, but the sum of all these random parts felt excruciatingly sad.

Ever since then, I’ve felt haunted by arbitrary memories. Like the time my mother rolled a stop sign on our way to piano because an empty soda bottle got jammed under her break, or when she took me spring clothes shopping at the Limited Too and bought me matchy-matchy outfits with stirrup leggings. I can’t even remember what I did last weekend, so why do I remember these things and why do they pop up out of nowhere?

I wondered if my siblings had similar issues with nostalgia, so I asked them.  My younger sister recalled a few times when she caught my mother watching Fear Factor. She suspects my mother was too embarrassed to admit she liked it so instead she’d say “Oh this just came on after Everybody Loves Raymond!”. She also remembered my mother’s food order at every restaurant in town. My older sister remembered laying in bed listening to the sound of my mother putting dishes away and how she used to always pack pool towels and snacks in laundry baskets.  Like seemingly everything since she died, these memories, for me at least, are both comforting and also heartbreaking.

I am a parent and, like many parents, I spend a lot of time fussing over making happy memories for my daughters. Must take the kids on vacation, must make sure they have the right amount of gifts on their birthday, must celebrate all the milestones in proper fashion – but I’m beginning to think these efforts are a little misguided. I’m sure they’ll remember some of these moments, but will they matter nearly as much as all the moments in-between?

Every once in a while I will be struck by a moment, usually a small and insignificant moment, and I’ll just know this is something my daughters remember.  They’ll remember being displaced from their usual spaces every Saturday so their mother could clean the house, they’ll remember staying at the town pool way after dark, they’ll remember the night mom and dad let them stay up past their bedtime watching something dumb life Fear Factor. In these moments I’ll feel happy and fortunate that we get to experience moments like these, but I’ll also feel heartsick knowing that someday they may miss these moments so much it hurts.

I sometimes wonder how the world would seem had my mother not died. Would I still look at life as something that’s constantly slipping through my fingertips? Would I be just as haunted by my memories of the past if my mother were here in the present?  There’s no way to know and, as gloomy as my outlook may seem to some, I feel incredibly grateful to have the memories regardless of what they bring with them. When my sisters shared their memories of our mother with me I felt a little sad, but my predominate response was to smile. So, on that note, I’ll return to my original question.

What are your everyday memories of your loved one like? The ones so dear they make you feel as though your heart is overflowing with emotion.

We invite you to share in the comments below.

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April 10, 2018

29 responses on "What's Your Memory? Remembering Everyday Moments"

  1. His eyes, his eyes, his eyes, and his feet. His name was Dr Santimoy Dasgupta. He was the best of us all.

  2. Mom and I would carpool together to our jobs while I was in high school. Mom worked at a bridal shop and I worked at a clothing store at the mall not far from where Mom worked. One cold winter night on the way home Mom decided she was going to treat me to McDonald’s to bring home for a late dinner. That was one of my favorite things back then so I was very excited. We rolled up to the drive through and being that it was a very cold Upstate NY winter evening the window was frozen shut so Mom had to open the door to order, pay and then to get the food. The dance that ensued at trying to reach her arm around the door to complete the transactions was so funny to me. I laughed from my toes. Mom did not find the humor in it and said if I didn’t stop laughing we weren’t going to go there again. Of course, there were many more trips to McDonald’s.

  3. I’m very frightened that my final memories of my dying mother will be her hurtful actions and disdain she has shown me for the last few years. As I desperately try to make her comfortable and happy at the Nursing Home, I don’t even get a simple “thank-you” for anything I do. I am experiencing all that is expected with “anticipatory grief”, but the main questions linger … “why can’t you love me like a normal mother does her daughter? What have I done to deserve this?” I don’t believe I will ever get an answer from her. With the approach of Mothers Day, the sadness is even heightened. Peace seems illusive, when resolution fails. I guess the strained Mother-Daughter relationship is what I will have to endure, with my memories?

  4. My mom lived with us for the last 3 1/2 years. She passed 04/12/18 . Every inch of my home has a bit of memory. Good and uncomfortable. She was part of our immediate family included in everything. So this pass month has been hard adjusting to my new normal. I am far from normal. I have tried to change things up a bit to help. Parking on the opposite side of the church so not to go in and out the same door…I visualize her sitting there waiting for me to finish with my 4 year old class after Bible Study Fellowship. I switched to sitting on the other side of the kitchen table…so as to not stare at her empty seat. I have sweet memories of setting her hair in her ancient velcro curlers…which she has had since the 1970’s…we have pictures to prove it. I moved the family room around to shake the image of her “spot”. I know that I will never be free nor do I want to be of her presence. I take on what I can let it ride and weep a bit then move on until the next item or image comes to mind. I am trying very hard to replace her final moments with sweet memories of her giggle and grin or her sense of humor.

  5. This is an article I wrote after the passing of my mother that I’d like to share with all of you. https://herviewfromhome.com/to-my-mom-in-heaven/

  6. My 23yr old son, CJ, died 10wks ago. While relaxing and watching tv, CJ often had one sock on and one sock off. I never saw him take a sock off, and always wondered how did that one sock come off?

  7. My 23yr old son, CJ, died 10wks ago. While relaxing and watching tv, CJ often had one sock on and one sock off. I never saw him take a sock off, and always wondered how did that one sock cone off?

  8. Mom passed friday and very unexpectedly so trying to picture good things instead of what I saw. I moved home 3 years ago partly to care for them and dad had a mild stroke last Oct so Mom said she didnt know what she’d have done without me. She was 92 and either had partly forgotten how to cook or pretended so just so i’d help her. Loved helping her. Tonight made spaghetti cause the meat was thawed out for that purpose cause she wanted spaghetti. I was ok until I asked her Alexa to play george Strait, Moms favorite. I remembered Mom trying to push her way in front of me and do it for me. In ways she was a lil kid at times but she was the sweetest person ever. Miss her dearly, hate cooking alone.

  9. My 30-year-old daughter died almost four years ago and there was another woman on the street who used to walk down our street with the same confident stride, even wore leggings under a skirt and wore her hair in a careless topnot. Sort of funny really – up close, the woman was even a different ethnicity, but it still gave me an ache of memory. I also just finished reading a book, not really related to grieving, but one of the people called these the “grocery store” moments – the mundane little things that bring back the memories.

  10. I made a trip to a shopping area about 45 minutes from my home about one year after my wife died. While driving into the area a memory of a trip my wife and I and our dog made to the same location about 15 years ago. The memory was vivid and very powerful. What made it so special was that on the original trip I can remember thinking to myself how wonderful our lives were. A great marriage, a cool new young dog, our business taking off, and just out having some fun on an ordinary day. The weather was exactly the same as well, cloudy and pleasantly warm. I was, as they say, in the moment then and on the present trip. I’m so grateful that I was able to understand and enjoy how wonderful our lives were in that moment.
    My memory of that trip now is mixed. I of course miss everything about the experience terribly, but at the same time feel so grateful for having had that time and knowing, even then, how perfect that ordinary day was.

  11. Eleanor,

    Needless to say I cried through this post. I never watched Everybody Loves Raymond and I remember your mother telling me how much she loved it. Now I watch it on TV Land at night and I can’t ever turn it on without thinking of your mother. I remember specific episodes she mentioned as being especially funny. I am wondering who mentioned remembering hearing their mother putting dishes away at night.. For some reason that was particularly poignant to me, because I can hear it and I can understand why that would at the time give them comfort. I am sending my love as always..

  12. Mama…I remember her calling me into the house of a summer evening…”Susan Lynn, it’s time to come in now. You can play more tomorrow.” I remember the way she stood in the kitchen in front of the stove, left hand on her hip, right hand holding a pancake turner. I remember her washing my hair. I remember the drive to the library on Saturday mornings. I remember going clothes shopping and how she would hand me or my sister the credit card and say “Don’t get too carried away”. She grew up hard during the depression and wanted her girls to have nice things. She always made sure we had whatever the other girls had. Oh, I miss her so. 40 years since she passed. I remember Mama.

  13. We live on a farm. I remember my husband would come to the back door and shout “Where ya at now?” Translation- can you come get me something so I don’t have to take off my boots. Also him turning over in the night, putting his hand on my thigh and saying “you’re so soft” that after 50 + years of marriage. Or getting a pizza and a six pack and going to his hunt club to make out under the sky. There are a million more of these memories.

  14. I come across emails that we sent back and forth from time to time. They make me cry and yet they also make me laugh. I think I miss most about him that he made me laugh every day…

    Here’s one i came across quite recently from 2013:

    Him (email titled Home Nightmares): I dreamed we bought a huge farm house + barn for really, really cheap. Unfortunately it contained a major demon out to kill us. Fortunately it got portrayed more like an obnoxious cat, whose threat was largely eliminated by picking it up by the scruff. But it still looked scary. And if you think dunking a cat into a bath is bad, try my dream of dunking a cat-like major demon into a bath of holy water….that was impressive & movie worthy.

    But it didn’t end there….the local home owners association, who had been giving us a wide berth due to demon and no-one owning the house for more than a few weeks without re-selling or dying, found out we got rid of the thing and they started harassing us because we weren’t locals and they wanted the property back in community hands. They insisted that we mow all our properly twice a week to keep it up to acceptable quality….including the 100+ acres of farm fields (if they weren’t going to be planted). So we bought the biggest robotic lawn mower that home depot had, setup a fence, and set it to work.

    I think the lawn mower was about to be a reincarnation of the demon, but I woke up then.

    How was your night?

    Me: that’s funny, too much Supernatural for you, little boy

    Him: What are we doing for dinner? Is the Red Lobster thing still good or did it expire yesterday?

    Me: it’s good through the 24th

    Him: Cool, we can save for next week when we close on the house….afterwards you can come over to my cool home, but you can’t stay. You have to go home to your dogs at some point. Sounds like our first dates. Maybe you’ll get lucky!

    Me: you so funny …. I love you….

  15. I lost my Dad suddenly on March 22. Massive heart attack at my parents home and the only home I have known them to have my 38 years. From that next day on I have been having constant memory flashbacks wherever I go. Flashbacks from me with him as a little girl to a grown woman married with two boys of my own. The littlest memories piercing my heart yet me yearning for them. When I fall asleep it’s like a slow roll yet sped up of a life of my parents and us kids. He was such a profound part of my life and I miss him so deeply. I am grateful for the 38 years I had him on earth and always grateful that he is my Dad.

  16. I remember my mother washing my hair in the bathroom sink. I would lay on top of the vanity and she would cradle my head in the sink. I remember her pouring warm cups of water gently rinsing the soap out of my hair. I don’t know why that memory comes to mind so often, but it is one remembered with much tenderness. The other memory I have of my mom that comes back time and time again is that she would always come into my room to say she was sorry if she ever got mad at me for one of the things that kids do to bring on some form of discipline. She was so soft-hearted. My brother and I didn’t get in much trouble, but when we did, we always got a visit from our mom and an apology.

  17. My husband always used a silly voice when he left me a voicemail. I have the last message he sent me saved and once in awhile I listen to it and smile.

  18. Just today I suddenly had a crystal clear vision of the way my husband used to hold the steering wheel when driving …

  19. I had a band performance which my mum wasn’t going to be able to make last year. She was still in hospital and could barely walk. After the performance had concluded and I came out to see my Dad and my brother, I saw my mum there too – in her wheelchair and all, a massive smile on her face. I went over to her and gave her a big kiss, something I don’t think she was expecting. She told me how special that had made her feel. I wish I could give her a million more moments like that.
    My mum was also an overflowing fountain of knowledge and she would always either be reading up on something (she loved how answers were just a google search away) or telling us about something interesting she’d read about. It used to annoy me sometimes, but now I would do anything for her constant chatter.
    I miss you so much mum.

  20. A song. A dish towel. A walk holding hands the last time he was able to walk without a cane. The last time we held hands, before he left for the hospital for what was supposed to be a simple procedure. Wanting his back scratched. A Giants game. Getting me a tattoo. Arguing over pizza. Cuddling with his cat on the porch. Sitting on the deck talking for hours. Falling asleep on the beach. Telling me he liked my harem pants. Telling him I liked his long cargo shorts. Last time buying gas. Last drink shared. Last meal. Last sleep. Last kiss. ..

  21. His hugs. My big handsome son hugging me. Those huge big hugs that made me feel so small and so loved. His little boy hugs were the best too. When he was about 2 years old we had summer storms with lightning and he’d run and leap into my lap saying – hold me, hold me, hold me. Always 3 times. His hugs. I miss him. terribly.

  22. It happens so often it’s hard to choose one. One silly thing was when he was deep in thought, he would have his finger a little bit in his mouth. I thought it was kinda cute. Unfortunately, I mentioned that I thought it was cute and he never really did it again. I tried but nope. He crinkled his nose when he laughed and he was usually a funny guy too. I remember riding atop his shoulders at a concert so I could see. He always told me that he loved me more than I ever knew. When I drive in SF I see many things that remind me of him which ends up really very bittersweet. I find now that I think often of bedtime when I had both my sweet pooch and my hubby beside me, me holding his hand. A time when I was super content and happy. He passed nearly 9 years and 7 months ago.

  23. My little boy Henry had a quiet sense of humor. At four he waited outside the bathroom door until I opened it to find him standing there wearing an old antique pair of women’s cat eye eyeglasses (I kept them on a bookshelf). He was smiling from ear to ear when I found him. I laughed out loud and we shared a good laugh while I took a photo.
    He died very suddenly and unexpectedly a few months later.

  24. My brother, bright blue eyes watching something on TV that makes him laugh so hard he cries. His laugh was infectious. He is with our father who is laughing because he is laughing. I miss so much about both of them that it hurts. Good memories leave me longing for them even more.

  25. This is a helpful post to read. Having watched my Mom suffer through cancer for 3 years and pass away, I still struggle with the painful and tough memories. It’s so important to remember the good, but also the everyday. I loved watching my Mom interact with our pets, so cute! As a single Mom, she’d still take me camping, and could pack the truck up like a perfectly put together puzzle. She was my Wonder Woman! She was a very busy bee and you could never get her to sit still for a whole movie. Her excitement for clean sheets. Her cute way of asking if you wanted to go to the grocery store with her, my how I wish my teenage self had said yes every single time. Her watering her garden after work still in her mail carrier uniform. I could go on and on. Thank you for helping me to dip into these ordinary memories. I agree with you, they still sting, but also make me smile.

  26. My dad – a peanut butter sandwich and a cup of tea with milk. sitting and just listening to the birds in the trees (not caring that I am afraid of them. Not afraid of anything as long as he was there. Walking around the block with my dad – saying it was to walk the family dog – but really to be together and chat about nothing and something. As I said at his funeral – we simply knew the joy of being together. I am SO lucky I had that in his lifetime – and mine. thanks dad – for the being. It meant the world to me!! still does.

  27. My husband died last April. This has been a difficult month. This weekend, I found a box of his toiletries that my daughter had packed up for me. When I saw his deodorant, I pictured him spraying it on and it made me weep. It is the littlest things that make me remember.

  28. Thank you for this website. I found it a few months ago. My husband died last August. It took me several months to realize one chunk of what was missing in my house. It didn’t SOUND like home. I missed hearing my husband play his guitar in his basement studio. I listen to a lot of Larry Carlton now. I can’t listen for very long to my husband’s music. Larry Carlton is just right for background sound. Yeah, my husband was a really good guitarist.

  29. I walked into the kitchen in my office a little while ago and someone had left Angel Food Cake out to share. My Dad loved Angel Food Cake and it slew me to see it sitting there. I never see Angel Food Cake just sitting around. It really helped to read this, so thank you.

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