Last week I posted about a concern a lot of bereaved parents have when their child’s spouse or significant other moves on to a new relationship. It feels like losing another part of their child. The world keeps turning even though there is a hard stop where their child’s earthly existence ceases.
A similar fear grieving parents share is that people will forget about their child. My daughter is etched into my very being. Half of her DNA was the same as mine. I could no more forget her than I could forget my own face in the mirror. Most especially because my face looks like my mother’s and so does my daughter’s.
But, what about other people? Will they remember my child? A friend of Rachel’s from middle school still occasionally messages me, asks how I’m doing, and shares a memory of Rachel. I treasure her notes and remembrances. But, what about others? When I am old(er) and start to reminisce about the goth phase my daughter went through, will people be momentarily confused and then say, “oh, that’s right, you had a younger daughter, didn’t you? What was her name?”
I worry especially that my grandchildren will forget about her. Oh, they won’t entirely. The two oldest grands were both 10 when Rachel died in 2017, and they spent a lot of time with her. She showed them how a record player works and had them listen to the eclectic music she loved: bluegrass, classic rock, old-time gospel.
The next two were 8 and 7, respectively, and they also remember her. They each have one of her American Girl dolls and played with her original Polly Pocket toys. But, I don’t think their memories are as personal.
The youngest two were only 5 years old and 18 months when their aunt died. Their memories of Rachel are vague and mostly based on pictures of significant events like her wedding. They are very fond of their Uncle, but the youngest sometimes need to be reminded that he was Aunt Rachel’s husband.
Their uncle’s sister made them each a stuffed bunny out of Rachel’s big floppy pajama pants she was so fond of wearing. They love these “stuffies,” even the now-teenage boys. But, as they get older will they pick up their bunny and take a few moments to remember why it’s special?
I get it. I really do. I get why new neighbors who look at pictures on my mantle ask who the “other little girl” is with my daughter. They have no reason to know both girls are my daughters.
I get that only a very few people understand why I keep my porch light off and don’t give out candy on Halloween. It was Rachel’s birthday, and until she was about 4, she thought the whole holiday was a celebration for her. Now, for me, it’s a remembrance day. I know I’m sitting inside with the lights low looking at old pictures with a tissue box handy. The neighbor kids may think I’m just a grump.
But, here it is. My biggest fear. I’m afraid that at some point I will be old and feeble and my mind will become forgetful. I know I will never forget that Rachel is my daughter and that I had her in my life. But, what if I forget she moved to Heaven too soon? What if I forget she isn’t here and I wonder why not? What if I ask people about her and they can’t tell me because they’ve forgotten? Or they’ve never known. What if?