How About Leaving Some Surprises? October 13, 2012Posted by ijwoods in Blog+.
Tags: grief, grieving, hope, preparations
As of Thursday the 11th, it’s been 1 full year since K passed away. It’s difficult enough to understand she is gone and not returning, no less comprehend what a year means. So much has transpired in between, yet a year seems just impossible.
Over this period I’ve been observing some interesting things about the grieving process; one of those things is the interplay between memory and feeling. Sometimes a feeling will inspire the memories and sometimes the memories will inspire the feelings. The feeling seems to be the key component though. I can at times actually go back to the same feeling I had as when she was in bed and I was caregiving. Once I get to the feeling, the floodgates of memories open up. Everything from that time becomes accessible.
Quite often this year I’d find myself in search of the feeling. This would play out for me by cleaning house and going through all sorts of items such as clothing, files, books, boxes and whatever else may contain some trace of K’s life. Every now and then I would uncover some surprise; something unexpected. Invariably, whatever I found would bring me back to the feeling where I would whole heartedly indulge in the experience. There, I could spend hours sploshing around in the emotion and the memories.
A few months ago I was cleaning out my office closet and came across several discs. On these discs were about 30 short videos that my then business partner and I and created. The videos were part of a training simulator we developed for sales people. In producing the videos we used K and another friend of ours to play the role of executives in a fictitious company. I had forgotten about this disc and now, almost ten years later, there it was. And what a fantastic surprise!
I couldn’t watch it enough the day I found it, and still watch it quite often. It’s one of the rare videos of K to exist from the past ten years. I then took the set of videos, pulled out K’s part and edited them together to share with her family so we could all enjoy them.
Earlier in the year I was on one of my “hunting” expeditions sorting through a box K had created of family photos. I had actually gone through this box before but for some reason this time I discovered newspaper articles. Newspaper articles about K!
Several times over the years she mentioned to me how, while in high school, she organized a student walk out. She never went in to any detail and to me it sounded like a nice story but I always imagined a group of 10 students marching around the school with placards. I had no idea what the scope was of what she did, nor did I ask. What a mistake.
In all the time we were together K never showed me the articles I found. Reading them was a revelation. These were articles from major Twin City newspapers. In one article they have a photo of her standing in front of 1200 students being cheered for her leadership. The protests she organized in her school spread to other highschools throughout the metropolitan area as well and was getting considerable reportage.
Her concern was that the quality of education was going to take a hit due to stalled budget negotiations happening between the board and the teachers and she wanted to do all she could to prevent that from happening. The articles spoke of her strength, her sharp intellect and ability to articulate her position not only to the students but to the adults.
One such article entitled “Walkout Organizer has Way With Words” is about how she confronted the superintendent of schools in her district. It starts off, “Kristin Carlander is a no-nonsense 17 year old High School senior who handles her school district superintendent by alternately slamming him with a plank of pithy sentences and sprinkling him with sugar.” To say I was taken aback by all this is an understatement. I found it so sad that I never got to enjoy these newspaper clippings with her, but oh how they satisfied my hunger to reconnect to the feeling. What a wonderful surprise! (Yes, the walkout turned out to be a success in acheiving its goals)
Many days during the week I poke around, cleaning something or the other, hoping that I will uncover another jewel. Maybe it’s a hair that’s fallen in the pages of a book or a grocery note sitting in the pocket of an article of clothing. But all of them seem to have that ability to make me smile, cry or simply feel that she is still here with me. It’s part of my process.
All this got me thinking about something we can do when it is our turn to be cared for. How about writing notes or creating little hidden surprises for our loved ones to discover after we’ve gone? If any one of them is going through a similarly strong grieving process they would probably love discovering something left secretly behind by us for them. Maybe it sounds like a silly idea, but I know that it would certainly mean a lot to me.
I came across a company called Eternity Message that some people use for this very purpose. It’s an online service that allows you to send emails one year into the future (their free membership) or anytime 60 years into the future (premium membership). It won’t know when I die, but if I suspect I may have only months to live, and have the strength, I can write to a bunch of people and have it sent to them whatever future date I set it for. Or I can write thoughts about my life now and send them off to my loved ones for arrival 5 years from now. I don’t know how I’d react if out of the blue an email from K arrived while I’m sitting here typing, but I’d certainly take the risk.
Although I don’t think K left anything specific hidden away for me to discover I will still continue to look and enjoy finding traces of her existence. I know that each time I find something it will thrill me and bring me back to the feeling of her that I love so much. I have to admit that it’s part of the grieving process I really enjoy. Maybe one day all that will be left is the feeling.