I don't know about yours, but my mother saved everything. As did her mother. Both my parents and their parents are now deceased and I have inherited all the papers and photos, greeting cards and letters, books, china and silver, jewelry, scrapbooks, family recipes (and I am not a cook!), personal documents, and a plethora of other mementos.
When Mom died in 2009, in my grief I tried as best I could to sort and cull what was left behind. Although some of the items found their way to my brother's house, many of the objects ended up just being closed up in boxes. They continue to sit in a closet waiting for me to revisit them.
The task of looking through them again, knowing the decisions that have to be made, seems overwhelming still. What to keep? What to throw away?
But help is at hand from a book I discovered the other day at the library: Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive by Allison Gilbert. She writes of her own search for meaningful ways to honor her deceased parents. Instead of just relegating memories of those passed to a special occasion or holiday, she wanted ways to keep their memories with her all through the year.
So she consulted with jewelers, artists, scrapbookers, quilters, techie folks, photographers, upcyclers, and even a Hollywood prop artist. The result is a book full of what she calls Forget Me Nots - creative ways to commemorate those who have passed.
Her 85 Forget Me Nots are broken into five sections: Repurpose with Purpose; Use Technology; Not Just Holidays; Monthly Guide; and Places to Go.
Here are just a few of her suggestions:
Fashion your father's neckties into a quilt or wall hanging
Make a Memory Magnet using a family photo for the fridge
Volunteer your time to organizations or causes that support your loved one's interests or passions
Create a piece of jewelry that incorporates your loved one's signature
Make a playlist of your loved one's favorite songs (My mom and I both loved Frank Sinatra!)
Many of Ms. Gilbert's suggestions are easy to integrate into your days. On the other hand, you might have to rely on the help of others - a tech person, artist, or even a historian - to assist you in your plans. She includes contact information for helpful sources.
This is a useful guide that deserves a permanent place on one's bookshelf. At times, a suggestion may not make sense to you or may not be one that you can bear to contemplate, so having these Forget Me Nots close at hand could prove useful at a later date.
Already her thoughts have prompted my own Forget Me Not. My high school class has planned various activities for this weekend in celebration of our I'll-Never-Tell-How-Many-Years reunion. Yesterday, a group of us met at the high school, ate lunch in the cafeteria alongside current students, and took a nostalgic tour of the building. Before I went, I dug out my class ring and slipped it on my finger. As my mother graduated from the same high school, I also wore her class ring. It was a way to have her with me and share the experience.
Have you come up with any ideas to keep and incorporate into daily life the memories of family and friends who have passed away? I would love to hear your suggestions.