This memory always creeps into my mind on the 4th of July. I think about the first Independence Day without my mom. It was just 10 days shy of the one-year anniversary (July 14) without her and I was driving into town to meet a friend so we could watch our small town fireworks show together. As I journeyed along, a question entered my thoughts, one I hadn’t considered before.
What if I forget her?
This thought terrified me and the tears streamed down my face. I couldn’t stop crying. Instead of continuing into town to meet my friend, I turned the car around and headed back to the house. When I got home, my sister-in-law was there. She and my oldest brother were in town for a weeklong visit. Marianne had lost her mom when she was 15. I told her why I was upset and she wrapped her arm around me and reassured me that I would never forget her.
As I thought about this moment of comfort again today my heart wept. Years later, Marianne struggled with bi-polar disease and addiction. She was never able to overcome this struggle and lost her family in the process. And, one day, she overdosed and never woke up. She left behind two incredible teenage boys (my nephews).
Yet, the words my sister-in-law shared with me while we sat on the edge of my bed that evening 25 years ago were true. I haven’t forgotten. The memories continue to shape and teach. They didn’t fade. They deepened.
My mom’s life and my mom’s death have become a part of who I am today. Loss, if we are to grow and heal, requires us to wrestle with grief. I am thankful that I have had more good memories to remember than bad ones. I know that is a gift and I don’t take that for granted. I know others are not as fortunate, many are forced to grieve and heal from pains and memories they would much rather forget than have to remember.
On this 4th of July, on this day of freedom, my prayer is this: that remembering (the good and the bad) is not in vain. May pain always, always, always be redeemed. May hope spring to life out of chaos. May beauty be uncovered. May love take us by the hand and direct our steps down the path of healing, the path of transformation and the path of sweet freedom.