I forget things. People recall events I can't remember, offering detail upon detail to help take me back in time, but to no avail. Sometimes I wonder if the pain of loss has affected my memory or my desire to remember. Like, remembering is a dark place, a deep place, and traveling there is too exhausting so instead I bury my memories, pack sand on top so that I don't go back unless I really need it... But I think remembering is very important.
Each soul has a story. Some are sorrowful, others reflections of the joy that is possible in this world. Most are complex weavings of the tragic, the comic, the ironic, the fateful. Untold stories are the most troubling and disheartening of them all because they are lonely stories that gather dust, losing flesh, waiting in vain for an eager ear to consume it, maybe even carry it on.
Three years now from the death of my father, and almost nine from that of my mom, I see now that the nature of my grief has changed over time. I am grieving not just for the loss of their contribution to my future, to the twists and turns to come of my own soul story; I also grieve the lost pieces of their own stories, those they left untold, those which perhaps they intended to tell a friend, maybe even me, one day.
Sometimes I imagine what they would have said to me one day. When I got married, had children. What interesting anecdotes from their own lives they would have shared with me as tools to apply to mine. What confessions would have surfaced with time. What yearnings. Ours was a safe space, so know that these things would have happened, eventually. Did God want me to figure it out without these tidbits? On my own?
I found my dad's journal. In it he disclosed hope, gratitude, and vulnerability that I saw in his depths, but which I hadn't seen explicitly in such a raw and honest form. I know it wasn't my journal to read. I know that wasn't cool. But it was like I was hungry for some newness, some new piece of him that would signal to me that even though he's not here, there's still more to discover about him. I was hungry to feel like it was possible for him to share more with me.
I had a similar experience with mom. In fact, I've discovered several little notes to me in journals and books over the years. It always makes me cry and always makes me glad that I didn't toss all my parents' stuff without making sure I wasn't getting rid of something valuable.
These experiences reaffirm my conviction about journaling. Not only do I learn new things about myself through the process of journaling, but I also preserve parts of my story for someone to find when I've moved on from this place, or for me to prepare to share with them. As I return from Thailand, I'm glad I've been pretty consistent about chronicling this experience. If my mind can't remember, at least I can read about it! And there are lots of great lessons to learn from looking back.