Sometimes it takes almost two decades for the memories to change from gray and back to color once again. Sometimes it takes years to walk through stages of grief and dig out from the walls you didn’t even know were callousing your heart.
Sometimes it takes years upon years to dig through the sadness to find that there was love and happiness underneath all of the grief. To remember there was once joy and smiles before the pain.
But the memories do change overtime.
At first I couldn’t even think about you. Recalling your laugh was a reminder of a life without hearing it ever again, the wounds of grief still freshly open, so I filed the memory of that laugh far away. So far I couldn’t remember it at all, so far I forgot about it for a time.
Later, when I thought I was ready to revisit your laugh, I pulled that memory out again. Only this time I didn’t feel the intense pain of that fresh wound, I felt sad. Tears came and that memory became a gray place for me to go when I thought of you. Your laugh which once brought me joy was now causing me tears. Every memory I pulled out of my time with you brought sadness. Every joyful moment we shared together brought tears. For a season I couldn’t even think of you without being sad or hear a story about you without crying hot heavy tears.
Then there was anger. How when I entered the season of marriage and having my own children, the anger came about how your laugh would never be heard or shared with them. Your presence and unconditional love through parenting four newborns in four years was deeply missed and I was actually quite pissed at you for not being her to help me hold and rock all the babies I could barely fit in my lap. And the anger that you missed tickling and laughing with my kids, blowing on their bellies or pretend gnawing on their chubby neck rolls. Anger. Hot red anger. The laugh that once brought me joy then, then it cause hot red, burning anger, festering with frustration about how this is just not the way it was supposed to be for us.
And then over time. On the other side of pushing memories away, the graying of them, the hot red frustration about them, the memories finally changed. Underneath the pain, the sadness and anger, once I dug out from underneath all of it I remembered the joy and the love.
I remembered your laugh and I wanted to talk with people about it. And the fullness of color, the clarity of sound, the way you smelled of Lancome’s Tresor. It all came back. The memories changed back when I was well enough to be thankful for the memories I was able to share with you. The tears still came but the tears were different.
And it is the joy that I know you want me to pass on to my family and others. Not the pain, the sadness or the anger. But the joy of your laugh. Your smile despite the battle you were fighting. The joy you showed me even when I knew you were angry too about the times you would miss with us. The stories that others share about you, now that I can hear them in full color I can see that you lived a life of joy in the midst of uncertainty and struggle. That what ties all the stories others share about you is your smile and your laugh.
When the memories change it is much easier to whisper your name to my kids over a bedtime story or hear them say your name in their prayers. It’s easier to tell them where I learned a group hug called a hunga-bunga, why I drive too close to the steer wheel, why we put red hots on Christmas cookies or even one day when they are old enough to tell them where they got that gene to use that curse word, the one you loved so much, at the drop of a hat.
When the memories change, it takes time, decades, seasons and stages but the memories do change back to reflect love. The sadness is still there but the sadness is quite different when it is seen through the lens of love. When the memories change on days like today, I can think of your laugh and be thankful for the times I was able to hear it up close and in person.