It’s said that memories fade. As we grow older our capacity to make new memories lessens and we start to focus instead on times long ago – Mrs Smith down the road who would swing her stick at kids who passed by, the odd young man at the bus stop who’d talk to himself, the teacher who’d smile when you got the answer right.
Life’s timeline stretches in a strange way depending on where we stand within it. It shrinks and expands and even stops. That long night in hospital, the day you stood on top of a mountain and felt the wind in your hair, the moment you said a final farewell. Images flash by and the heart struggles to keep up. Did you remember that right? Was it raining or not? Memories can be unreliable too, that’s the thing. Our brains are clever. They protect us all day long from things that can hurt and I think that’s marvellous.
But it’s important to pause on the timeline now and again and take stock. Particular dates are the perfect opportunity to do so. Tomorrow is the anniversary of my brother’s death. I’ve spoken about it before and yet every year, when the leaves change colour and the nights draw in, my body tells my mind to remember. I get lethargic, snappy and down. And soon enough I nod and realise what’s happening. Grief speaks to us and it’s worth listening. You can place it in a drawer for a while, if the time isn’t right, but soon enough it rattles around in there until you open up and take a look. It’s dark inside but the light gets in too.
And I’m noticing that eight years on from that awful day the snapshots in the drawer are brighter – Stephen’s giggle, his adoring smile at his young daughter, his unbeatable sarcasm. He was kind and funny and gentle. He was here for a time and he was loved.