If you have a personal item from someone who has passed away, you know how much that simple possession can mean. Sometimes the smallest things are the things we treasure most, because they connect us to someone we love and can no longer be with. At least that’s how it is for me.
Doris Anne 1936 – 2018
My grandmother was beautiful. She had blue eyes that sparkled with laughter and a million-dollar smile to boot. She was funny, and elegant, and smart, and creative, and so many other wonderful things. I could go on and on about her. It seems to be that way with the people we love; the words we use to describe them are never able to quite capture how we feel. She loved me a lot, and I loved her.
When I was a little girl, she hung a painting by Andrew Wyeth in her and my grandfather’s room. It pictures an old cream-colored dog, curled up asleep on a four-poster bed with a white-tasseled blanket. Outside the window, a pine branch hovers, and light filters through to create a sunspot on the bed.
My grandmother’s essence was everywhere in that room, and for me, the painting was its centerpiece. I can’t remember a time before it was there. I used to lounge on their bed and study it, drawn to its nostalgic simplicity.
Years later, as she was dying from cancer, Grandma asked me what of her possessions I’d like when she passed. We cried together, and I told her the only thing I wanted was her bedroom painting. She’s gone now; it hangs over my bed instead of hers. It’s my constant reminder of who she was, our precious days together, and her love for me. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Of course gazing at that painting hurts sometimes – I miss her. Of course I wish I could relive, even for a moment, the feeling of her quilt beneath me, the brightness of her bedroom, and the sound of her talking to me from the kitchen as I stared at the picture. But it also helps me process my heartache, and emotionally reconnects me to a woman who loved me and influenced my life. In the days, months, and now years following her death, I have longed to remember every special moment that I shared with my Grandma, and that painting opens the door in my mind to a hundred other memories of her that I never want to forget.
I’m so thankful she took the time to have a hard conversation with me before her death so that she knew what would be meaningful to me in the future. She did this for her other grandchildren as well, and I think that’s what making a Gifts and Memories List is all about. It’s understanding what possessions will really mean something to and comfort your loved ones in the future and then ensuring things are organized and written down so they will receive those treasured possessions. It’s a practical act that gives the person you love a monumental gift.
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