As the 2 year anniversary of my mom’s passing approaches, I find myself surrounded by reminders of her. Most of them were intentionally placed there by me, but there were others who either intentionally or inadvertently helped to set these reminders up for me.
My mom’s favorite flower was the gardenia. Every Mother’s Day, my father would go to the florist and buy Mom a corsage that she could wear. It was made of gardenias. My aunt and uncle, who live not far from where my parents lived for their brief time in Williamsburg, have a gardenia bush in their front yard. After Mom died, some people whom I serve with in my church asked my wife what they could do to help me remember my mom. Her suggestion was to buy a gardenia bush to plant in our backyard. After they came out and planted it, someone sent me a plaque that I put right underneath it to remind me every day of my mom.
My mom loved lighthouses. I think they were a reminder to her that even in the midst of the darkest, stormiest, foggiest night, there was still the light of Christ shining through in the midst of the storm. She had lighthouse soap dispensers, lighthouse candles, lighthouse tissue holders, lighthouse stained glass ornaments, and tons of other things throughout the house. In fact, the house was decorated solely by her, and she made it her own. Lighthouses were a big part of that decoration.
After she died, I found this picture of one of the lighthouses in North Carolina. I thought that a good way to honor her would be to have it framed and then to put it up on the wall in our house. It’s a constant reminder of the same thing to me that I think lighthouses were to her, that in the darkest and stormiest of times, God is still there shining light in the midst of it all.
Mom loved the beach too and the theme of lighthouses and the beach together bring a smile to my face. I have some great memories of going to the beach with her during the summertime growing up. She always prided herself on how long she could make things last and she had this beach chair that she had for what seemed like 20 years. Somehow or another, she managed to keep it in great shape.
Not too long ago, a friend of mine who didn’t know my mom gave me a gift. It was at a time when I was particularly struggling with my own grief and loss. All that she knew of my mom was what she had read in my blog or shared in social media. Needless to say, when I opened up the gift, I was incredibly surprised to find a set of windchimes. Tears came to my eyes as I recalled the many times that I had sat in the kitchen or living room of my parents’ house in Connecticut and listened to the windchimes that my mom had hung up out on her porch. She loved windchimes and it was such a fitting tribute to her. But the amazing thing was that my friend had no idea how fitting it was, she just saw them and felt like she had to get them for me.
In the midst of grief, it’s really easy for those who haven’t experienced it to say, “Just move on, get past it.” It’s easy for others to condemn the stories and the tributes and reminders that we have of those we have lost. But once you experience it for yourself, you have a deeper understanding, it makes you much more sensitive to what loss is all about.
I don’t think that these reminders are a bad thing. I don’t see them as means by which I hang on to the past, they just act as reminders of all that I had with my mom, all the love that we shared together. But they also serve as reminders to me that death is not the end. Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” We have this hope in Jesus Christ that we will once again be reunited. As I look at all of these reminders, that thought alone can bring a smile to my face.