I have a box of memories of my brother Jeff. It contain a small album of childhood photos, a memory candle, a CD of photos of him as an adult, items from the memorial service, and a small urn of his ashes. In 2005, I sealed this box with packing tape.
My box is with me--not in storage like so many of my other things--because it is something I value dearly. It is all I have of my brother who committed suicide in 2005. This event was so traumatic, so life altering, that it was all I could do to survive it. They call people who have lost loved ones to suicide, survivors. There is a reason for that. It is perhaps one of the most painful things to experience--to lose someone close, by their own hands. I honestly believe one cannot even begin to know what this is like unless one personally experiences it him/herself. I know I didn't--before then. My life changed forever on that day. But it was just an event. I had a past to deal with. Should I think about it? Retrieve memories of Jeff to feel joy? Or seal them away because they were to painful to experience--face?
I was pretty successful at eventually working through the crisis. I had a loving support system that made this possible. Coupled with a desire to learn all I could so that I could make sense of it all. And I actually did make some sense of it. But I still had yet to open that sealed box.
It is sitting on my bookshelf next to me. But guess what? The seal is broken now. This Christmas, when my son was here, I opened the box for the first time in nine years. It was a spontaneous decision. I can't say exactly why I felt ready that day, after all these years. It was perfect though. I cried. I told stories. My son listened and gave hugs. We lit the candle. And I placed the little urn on my bookshelf. Jeff is no longer hidden away--too painful to bear. He is now a part of the present again. I have no words to tell you just how cathartic that moment of opening my memory box was for me.
I still can't look at photos comfortably. But maybe one day I will be able to. And perhaps even be able to place a framed photo on my shelf next to the urn. One small step at a time. They say that the first step is the hardest. I have a feeling the next one will be much easier.
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