I wiped off the dust, soaked it clean with tears, washed over it with shaking hands and a pounding heart. The images opened the door, the locked place where the pain lives, where the white hot pulse lurks just below the surface, so much lost.
It is not pity, exactly, there are more who have lost far more, whose grief is red raw, every hour laid bare. Mine has been processed, talked through, I have found a way to stand again, but every now and then the reality of their physical absence chills my bones and I shake and shutter, break open scanrs that have long healed over.
That’s what happened yesterday when I cleaned out her things, boxes of photographs she had lovingly saved, memorials of love she had kept across the ages of me and her and him. The smiles haunt and hurt and hug across the years, voices swirl and memories flood and I am back there again when they are close before the fresh dirt of the open grave.
There is a reason we compartmentalize, because to take this life all at once, the beauty and tragedy, the joy, the heart wrenching pain would be too much. His smile, staring up at me from black and white photo, curly hair and chubby cheeks, polo jacket thrown over one shoulder, me wiping his mouth and kissing his forehead, mama and me at high school graduation, baby sister crawling on the floor, nipping at my heels.
My mother’s walls were plastered with these, no space left for a thing. Everywhere you looked she hung portraits of loved ones, and now I think, it’s as if she knew. It is like she knew there’d be a time when she’d be gone and she wanted us to be able to find our way. We would tease her, encourage her to pare down tell her it was all too much. She’d smile so that her eyes would disappear and say, “This will all be yours someday.”
And so it is, I remain. How is it that I’m the one who survived, I am the one still here to feel the rain on my lashes and smell the snow in the air. I am here living life wide eyed and full heart—what is left of this heart any way. “You’ll find the rest of me in Heaven” Sarah Scharborough sings and I deep know what those words mean; for what of me continues on is whole, but parts of me have flown. So for me, she curated snapshots of our life, pieces of our magical journey of love and laughter in excess.
So today I am grateful, filled with understanding—I now see through--, these artifacts were meant to take me back, bring me home, put crumbs along the path so I could find my way and share with those who await reunion with me. “I was here, and I loved you” she whispers, “I am here now, helping you tell the story—you are the keeper of the secrets divine.”