Small Remembrances and Expressions of Love

When it comes to expressions of love the largest common denominator is the act of loving, the rest is just a matter of person and preference. Love comes wrapped up in little boxes or giant packages; tenderly whispered or declared from the rooftops; eloquently written or in fumbling awkward utterances. The prose of love may be spoken in any language and its rituals transform as you spin the globe.

When it comes to love, I’ve always had a preference for the micro-expression. The small but thoughtful gesture that shows someone cares and the momentary impulse one simply couldn’t contain. These thoughtful and personal acts – a note from your mother telling you she’s proud of you; a hug from your daughter who’s no longer into hugs; a small gift from a friend, bought simply because it reminded her of you; being allowed to sleep in because your husband thought you deserved it –have no pretense and nothing to prove. They exist because you are loved and because you love in return.

I had a completely different post written for today on loneliness and social isolation. It’s an important topic, one that’s felt pretty personal to me lately, but I got distracted as I am often wont to do. When I started writing this post this morning I felt as though I had gone from one extreme to another – loneliness to love – FBand it seemed those two things couldn’t be any further apart. But after thinking about it for a moment I realized that, when it comes to grief, these things aren’t opposites but corollaries.

Loneliness, after all, is relative. Even when surrounded by family and friends one can feel lonely because they lack the love and connection they feel they desire. One of the reasons we feel so lonely after someone dies is because we yearn and ache for their love, however it may have been felt and expressed. When someone dies we initially feel as though their love has been stripped from our lives.

I was struck last night while reading through a string of comments on our Facebook page left in response to a post we wrote about how grief makes you feel like you’re going crazy. One reader wrote about how her late husband’s flip flops have been by the back door for two years and every time she passes them they make her smile. Another reader wrote in response that she wears her deceased father’s pajama bottoms to bed every night because she thinks they make her sleep better. These little things may seem crazy to everyone else, but to the griever, they are small and tender expressions of love.

When we think of honoring and remembering deceased loved ones I think we often jump to vigils, roadside altars, and Facebook memorial pages. These are ‘shout it from the rooftop’ type of expressions, the gestures that let the world know your loved one was here and he or she was loved. But for so many of us, the more common and most meaningful tributes come in packages so small and commonplace that most people would never even notice them.

If I invited you in for a cup of tea I imagine you would stand for a moment before deciding my little red armchair is a good place to sit and chat. As you look around the room you would observe a few family photos and beyond that assume you were surrounded by everyday home furnishings. You would never guess that when I sit across from you in the very same room I am surrounded by the objects of three generations of women and a lifetime full of memories and love.

The shelf next to the piano holds my mother’s old sheet music, some of it so torn and tattered that it can no longer be played, but I can’t throw it away knowing that at one point my mother found herself lost among its notes. You’d never know that the chair you’re sitting in has been getting in our way for years, but my mother bought it and so I’m sure it will never find its way to the dump. And you’d never know that the linen chest sitting in the corner also sat in my grandmother’s living room for decades housing antique treasures and propping up family photos.

A photo in your wallet, a trinket in your pocket, words you speak in the morning, a song you listen to every night, a shirt hanging in your closet, a message on the answering machine – if you think holding onto these things make you pathological, think again. These aren’t the pathetic acts of someone who can’t let go and they’re not the symptoms of a person gone mad; these simple objects, small gestures and everyday routines are how we continue to live life surrounded by our loved ones and how we continue to say I love you long after a person has gone.

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March 5, 2018

24 responses on "Small Remembrances and Expressions of Love"

  1. “The moment that you left me my heart split in two. One side filled with memories and the other died with you. I often lay awake at night when the world is fast asleep, and take a walk down memory lane with a tear upon my cheek. Remembering you is easy, I do it every day, but missing you is a heartache that never goes away. I hold you tightly within my heart and there you will remain. You see life has gone on without you but never will be the same.”
    I love and miss you so very much. I pray that I’ll see you and Dad again when my time comes. <3

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  3. I like how you gathered your strength and wrote several insightful analysis about remembrance. In grief, you can just choose to be lost and wallow away, or remember how the person you lost expressed their love in a timeless and ageless manner. If ever, I can use some help on what you know on grief counseling, you seem to manage it well, it wouldn’t hurt if I took some tips from you.

  4. My husband died 3 months ago. His eye glasses are still on the table next to his favorite chair. I’m sure family and friends have noticed them, but kindly haven’t said 1 word. I notice them. Each time I consider moving them, something tells me to leave them there. Looking at them brings me comfort, for whatever reason, and others don’t need to understand my reason. I don’t understand it but I know those glasses need to stay there, at least for now.

  5. I am soooo glad there are others who understand.

  6. I needed to read this today. Sometimes I can get caught up in the achingly inadequate feeling of needing to do more to demonstrate my ongoing love for my husband. No gesture seems proportional to the love (and pain) I feel. How could it?
    But you are so right about the small, thoughtful, spur-of-the-moment gestures having the greatest impact. That was the way it was when my husband was alive, so why would it be any different now? We did not need anything more elaborate or grand than being present with each other to know how much we loved each other.
    More and more I have come to view my small, daily rituals and expressions of love as being just as powerful (perhaps even more) than the book I have not written or the marathon I have not ran in my husband’s memory. I write to him in my journal almost every day, I wear the Winnipeg Goldeyes’ t-shirt that was my first gift to him to bed, I sit in the special room I created filled with books, pictures, art and memories to write and pray, I reread our amazing text message conversations, and I say “sleep well my sweet prince” every night before going to sleep just as I did every single night while we were together (and I imagine him saying “sleep well my beautiful princess” to me).
    Most of all, I feel his love burning in my heart when I reach out to encourage and lift up others…. his love lives on in me and through me when I share those small acts of love with others.

  7. I love reading everyone’s stories and memories.
    If I’m having a glass of wine, occasionally I pour my husband a glass too. Then I have a little chat with him and give him a kiss, just like we used to. I keep his slippers in plain view in the closet, and I pinch the big toe “goodbye” before I leave for work. These and many other rituals that we shared give me so much joy – I’m so grateful that I found a comfort zone to do these things. At first it was terrifying to connect this way.

  8. Tomorrow will be the third anniversary since my Mom died, today is the 2 month anniversary since my dig died, and in two months it will be 4 years since my Dad died. Your post hit at just the right time for me.

    I wear my Mom’s wedding ring on my right hand, and it reminds me everyday that love and loyalty are irreplaceable. I have a picture in my wallet of them because it’s hard some days to remember them. I wear Mom’s robe on cold mornings. When I was clearing out holiday stuff, I saved Christmas gift tags with their handwriting and they hang on my bedroom wall next to my dog’s collar and tags.

    So many times people think it’s the big things that have memories, but for me it’s the small daily things. Notes, a kitchen gadget that was cheap 40 years ago but after so many uses has become a treasure, a pair of slippers, a tie…I treasure what I have left.

  9. I wear his wedding ring on a chain around my neck. On our 45th wedding anniversary, I added my ring to his. I also have several arrow heads he found as a child that I am planning to give to the grandchildren when they are older.

  10. My Husband died almost 5 years ago – I was his caregiver. I just recently donated his nice shoes – it was very hard. I still have some of his shirts and a beautiful coat he jokingly called his “mafia coat” – he was originally from New York. Lost my Mama just over a year ago, my best friend, miss her so much – was her caregiver. I can’t let go of any of her things – don’t know if I ever will – I love her and miss her so much! These past holidays were very difficult – it was good to get back to work. Trying to get used to my second “new normal”

  11. They told ME to get rid of his shirt that I used to sleep in, that keeping articles of clothing was so “unhealthy.”
    Criminy. If we can vote either Trump OR Clinton into the White House I don’t see how ANYthing else can be unhealthy. Not compared to that.
    I’m in a really terrible place right now. I can’t even think positive today.
    If I’d known there was nothing wrong with wearing the shirt I never would have given it away, but a professional counselor called it unhealthy. She wasn’t a grief counselor. They didn’t pay for us to have specific counseling. They gave us money for counseling but you got whatever one was available – and you got 10 sessions. I thought it was totally stupid and tried to refuse the money, but they wouldn’t let me do so.
    My loved one died in Tower 1 on September 11, 2001. His entire human remains were burned beyond recognition or later identification (IDK what happened to his teeth, which usually DON’T burn, “even in the hottest fires” according to the coroner) and our death certificate says Name: Eric Bee, Cause of Death (presumed finding of death, homicide) and we had to fight to get the cause of homicide placed on the death certificate. The city of New York wanted to put Terrorist Attack as the cause.
    They never found anything that matched the DNA samples for identifying Eric that we gave them.
    I still have his Civil War books but only because I couldn’t find anyone who wants to buy them. Now maybe I’ll keep them even though I don’t like reading about the Civil War. He had some kind of obsession with it. We used to go to Civil War Re-enactments, that’s how into it he was.

  12. The ending of your blog post says it exactly right! I have a lot of little items! Most significant is the ring I always wear that my husband gave me several days before he passed – one that I had given him 30 years before. I sleep in or with one of his t-shirts lightly sprayed with the cologne he always wore. Of course, I have photos – framed, on my computer, and on Facebook. I play his/our favorite music from his huge collection of LPs and CDs. Every now and then, I have a drink of his favorite scotch. That covers all five senses: sight, touch, smell, hearing, and taste.

  13. I love your post and your comforting words remind me that I don’t have to let go. Unfortunatey I don’t have much to hang onto..My dad’s partner got rid of most of his things, without ever asking me if I would like some of his things…She cleaned out his closet, threw out, donated & sold off everything including wooden benches he built by hand to neighbours & strangers…never wanting me to have anything. She set a shoe box aside of what she thought I should get. I do have family photos and a few books, and a his treasured baseball jacket I took from the closet before her purge. I am heart broken beyond belief of her insensitivity & meanness. However I did find the 2 wooden carved benches he made on the neighbours deck and I am sure they didn’t know their importance to me when she gave them away, as he made them and I don’t know how to get them back? I would like them in my backyard…..

  14. The little tokens of love from the immediate family members are the little treasures of life. I have a collection of family photographs . And whenever i feel mellow i take them out and revive the memories of my loved ones and childhood.

  15. I never knew this site existed. I have had so many loses in my life, I feel I will never be able to truly live a “normal, happy” life. I feel horrible most of the time. My bucket has so many holes and not enough mortar to plug them up. I’m glad I found this site. What is “commentluv”??

    • Mollie so glad that you found our site and just so sorry that you have had so many losses that led you here. I hope you find our posts helpful.

      Commentluv is a plug-in that allows other people to have blogs to share a link back to their website when they leave a comment on this site.

  16. As always, really enjoyed how you say things.
    This is kind of connected to the Theory of Continuing Bonds.
    It is not pathological to stay connected to your deceased loved ones, as some people think. I keep my father’s cologne . The smell reminds me of him. Lisa

  17. A lovely post. So reassuring to read that having my late husband’s stuff around the house doesn’t mean I’m struggling to accept that he’s no longer with us but in fact shows he still remains in our lives and is something to cherish. Something that many a well meaning friend has struggled to understand. Thank you.

  18. Well said, I have had similar thoughts going around my head recently along with a few as yet unwritten posts on my blog. Your living room sounds lovely 🙂

  19. Robin aka Gotham GirlOctober 9, 2014 at 1:52 pmReply

    Thank you for such a lovely post. I just posted a blog post that says something very similar. Just missing my daddy…and love when he sends me signs and messages. Like others…I sleep in his tshirts and wear his flannel shirts. Thank you always for your postings.

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