Thursday, June 23, 2011

Losing Memories of Your Child

We recently received a thoughtful and honest letter from another grieving parent. The parent retold her very sad story of losing her child while the child was sleeping at a day care provider. The parent recounted to us how, a few weeks following her son's sudden death, she "lost it" when she realized that she was beginning to forget all of the “little things” associated with her son. Whether it was the smell and feel of his skin, the color of his eyes, or the sound of his voice, all of these things were becoming lost in her memory.

We can relate to this unique aspect of grief. Over the past two years, Heather and I have similarly struggled with not merely losing our son in death, but losing bits and pieces of our memory of him as well. Once your child is gone, it seems that you begin, almost immediately, to forget those “little things” that make the child unique. I’m glad that Heather and I made it to a point to sit down together soon after Micah’s death and write down everything we could remember about our son, so that as years pass and new memories compete for the same neuron space between our ears, we will never forget all of the unique traits of our first-born son.

Last year, we attended a grief group at a local church. One of the leaders of the group told us that, as we have more children, the memories of Micah, our deceased son, would "merge" into the memories of our subsequently-born children. While the leader meant to comfort us with this promise, it was not comforting. Why would we want our memories to merge together? Is it because we want to dull the pain of what we have lost? To avoid squarely face the truth that we have lost a son, a child who God uniquely created and whose attributes will never be duplicated? No, I think parents do better long-term in their grief when they can remember and recount what makes his or her child unique.

As I have previously discussed on this blog, all of the parents I know who have lost children appreciate the opportunity to talk about their deceased child. Perhaps our appreciation for the opportunity to talk about our deceased child comes from this underlying desire to never forget what makes our child special. Regardless of whether the child was old or young, big or small, a good sleeper or a night wailer, a talker or a watcher, we want people to know and understand the beauty that God displayed in creating each of our children. We want to remember everything about our son Micah that God chose to use to make him unique.

In the end, Revelation 21:5 tells us that Jesus will “make all things new.” I’ve wondered what Jesus will do with our memory when He “makes all things new.” Will the restoration of our memory be part of God's restoration? Will he give us full memory, or only selective memory? Will Heather be able to remember every single sweet moment with Micah, and not have to deal with the terrible memories of giving Micah mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and then to watch him die? Or will we be so transfixed in the present act of worshipping God, face to face, and overjoyed with the presence of lost loved ones like Micah that we will have no need to rely upon memories of the past to add to our worship of him? Speed that day, Lord, when faith becomes sight.

1 comment:

  1. Cory, This a thoughtful posting. It was wise of you and Heather to write about Micah to recall his personality and sweetness and your memories of him. A reality of having more than one child is that memories merge, and it is hard sometimes to remember those precious moments with our babies. Who walked at what age and when that first tooth came in. Those of us whose children are with us, take that for granted. While I wrote some unique things about each child many things do merge, and it's ok but I wish I could give better answers to my adult kids about their childhoods. Cory in grief I have experienced, I found comfort in
    1st Cor.13:12 Now we see but a poor reflection; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. We'll have such a fullness of knowledge that we won't have any questions just understanding and peace and glorious reunions! Like the old hymn "When we all get to heaven what a day of rejoicing that will be, When we all see Jesus we'll sing and shout the victory!"