Friday, December 26, 2014

Ne pas oublier—one year later

Ne pas oublier. To not forget. Last Christmas, nearly all my father’s earthly possessions fit in my reusable bag sporting a French grocery list and reminder not to forget. Christmas morning after he died, my husband and I cleared his belongings from his room in the Alzheimer’s wing of the nursing home. I snapped this photo because I did not want to forget.

Forget what? My dear, sweet father, of course. His smile. His dignity as his mind and body declined. His love of music, tennis, wordplay, photography. His happy spirit. His love for my mom and our family. How he  recorded precious family moments on film because he did not want to forget them. The cruel irony of Alzheimer’s stealing his memory.

I also wanted this photo to remind me that life is fleeting and possessions don’t matter at the end. Because of the photo, all year, mere sight of this Ne pas oublier bag has triggered grief so deep that I could not use the bag. I would have to remember to buy fish and fruits another way.

One year and one day into my dad-grief journey, I thank God for His divine comfort and provision of compassionate friends and their hugs and prayers and laughter—and Puffs tissues. In fact, I dab sad tears as I type this. My heart has felt like dry, torn, straw tinder—itself dead, matted in the dirt—though now bathed in sunset’s hazy gold and smoky purple light. At some future dawn, God’s healing will be sufficient for new green shoots to sprout. In the meantime though, I can choose joy in God’s faithfulness and comfort, lovingkindness, promises and healing. It has taken me a year to make this decision. Sorry, Lord, for being so slow at this.

On Christmas Eve, the eve of the dreaded first anniversary, I packed up party supplies to take to Mom’s, including the DVD I’d had made from Dad’s 8mm films from the 1950s. I wanted our whole family to share in the joy Dad had taken in preserving precious family moments. We did! I wanted him to be present at our Christmas party. I wanted to remember his creativity and love. I decided to start using my Ne pas oublier bag again. I won’t forget.

I won't forget my father. Or his and my brief sojourn, and with God's help, I won't forget to choose joy.

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5