Keeping the Past Alive - a "This is Us Moment"
I had a “This is Us” moment with my late (beloved) father-in-law, who seemingly left us a message after his passing in 1998. If you do not watch the NBC family drama of the same name (without giving away too much), it takes place during two time periods, with the past and the present flowing fluidly into one another, making memories part of everyday life (tissue box not included-but strongly recommended).
My father-in-law’s message “from beyond” came in the form of a few acorns, a feather, some plastic wrap, and several crumpled napkins that came flying from the hood of my daughter’s stroller, as I lowered it to block out the sun’s rays. While these random objects may not hold meaning to you, they were the collection scooped up on daily walks by my father-in-law and my (then) three -year-old daughter, who together would pick up neighborhood litter and little pieces of nature from their adventures.
I had forgotten about this traditional “gathering of objects”, until they gently floated from the top of the stroller one sunny afternoon, leaving us with a posthumous connection and a way to carry memories through the generations. From then on, we literally “followed in his footsteps”, and continued the collection, talking about “Grandpa Bondi” (Endre), as we did so. It was always a treat to rediscover forgotten treasures each time we took a stroll, and a great lesson about finding happiness in all kinds of packaging and in life’s littlest moments.
Several weeks ago, I found an old and fuzzy photo with Endre (pictured on the left) in the background pushing an empty stroller, with my daughter running ahead, looking to curate for their collection, a branch of leaves in hand. Despite the quality of the photo, the memories came back with great clarity, as “this is us” and the memories we cling to.
As I was thinking about connections with the past, I ran into Carol Feuerman, Pavilion Board Member and volunteer, who lost her beloved mother, Shirley Meltzer, about six months ago. We discussed the importance of keeping memories alive, and Carol noted that she has been integrating Shirley’s traditions more and more as time passes. Carol shares the significance of keeping the “mental snapshot” of her mother as part of their lives, especially for the younger generations, who may not retain physical memories. Shirley’s absence was felt at the family’s recent Passover celebration, where she had shared a seat at the table amongst family members for more than 70 years.
To include her at the holiday, the family laughed and cried over stories from the past, with Carol taking over some of Shirley’s traditional dishes (including her ‘famous’ charoset), keeping them on the family table. A particularly touching moment was when two-year old grandson, Jack, passed by a photo of Shirley, and affectionately reached out towards it, pointing out his beloved “Gigi” (great-grandmother). Carol and Jack had spent many weekends “hanging out” with Gigi in the lobby of Oakmonte Village, Lake Mary, making an impact on both generations. Carol was clearly on the right track preserving memories, laughter, and tears.
I reached out to Bridget Monroe, Community Relations Coordinator at Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care for her advice on keeping our love ones with us long after they are gone. Bridget shared a very personal story about her mother, the late Alberta Morris, who died before her time at 39 years-old, when Bridget was just 19. Alberta had been all about the neighborhood and community. As a nurse, someone was always stopping by the Morris house about by an ailment, or just to spend time with a compassionate ear. Bridget shares, with her mother’s big heart, there was always someone new at the dinner table.
Monroe notes the importance of continuing the path set by the parent, grandparent, relative or friend that you are missing from your life. She recommends carrying on a meaningful tradition that reminds you of your loved one to both maintain the connection, and to pass it on.
Because Alberta delivered Easter and Christmas dinners to the neighborhood, with “special bits of love” for the seniors, Bridget and nine-year-old daughter, Olivia, deliver cookies to the neighborhood at Christmas, and this Easter delivered 175 cupcakes. Like her mother before her, Bridget puts together something special for her elders to make sure they get a little something extra, like “old-time” candies from their childhood. Her advice (which comes from ‘mom’), “It’s not about paying it forward, it’s about letting others know you care.”
Now that my kids are young adults, we remember “Grandpa Bondi” in new ways. One of which is to take his stories on pass them on…Now it’s your turn for your own “This is Us’ moment (tissues not included-but strongly recommended.) E-mail me your “every day memories” of loved ones at firstname.lastname@example.org.