2023 - October - Gazette - Memories Become Treasures

By: Dar Bellissimo
Friday, October 27, 2023

Memories Become Treasures

I was visiting with my mom and dad a couple of weeks ago and we started talking about my dad’s parents, who I lovingly called Grandma and Grandad. My mom shared two memories of them that she treasures. The first memory occurred soon after my older sister was born, who was Grandma and Grandad’s first grandchild. On a visit to introduce them to their new grandchild, Grandma took my sister into her arms and walked back and forth on her front porch in Milroy, Pennsylvania. As she did, Grandma wept.

You see, Grandma gave birth to two children, Sarah Jane and my father. Tragically, when Sara Jane was nine years old and my dad four, Sara Jane died from complications of rheumatic fever. My grandmother grieved deeply. Somehow, holding my sister in her arms made all kinds of connections for Grandma. This next generation brought some healing to her. My mom was touched to see such a loving, heartfelt, and tearful embrace.  

The second memory my mom shared was about a special experience she had with Grandad. When I was five and just beginning kindergarten, I got sick with pneumonia. My dad was away serving with the Air National Guard, and my mom was left taking care of me and my three siblings. (My youngest sister had not been born yet.) A trip to the doctor ended with me being admitted to the hospital and my mom accompanying me while neighbors cared for my sister and two brothers.

I don’t remember much of this time myself, but my mom has shared that it was scary for her. Her child was sick, hospitalized, and she was navigating it all on her own with my dad gone and unreachable. It was a whirlwind of events.

Once I was settled into the hospital room, my mom looked towards the door and saw a very welcomed and familiar face. Without being asked or saying anything about it, Grandad came from Milroy to Centre Community Hospital in Bellefonte and quietly waited out in the hallway. He was a solid, comforting presence for my mom in a time of turmoil. She was so touched to see him there and to know she wasn’t alone. She felt very cared for and loved.

These memories are treasures to my mom and because she has shared them, they are treasures to me and my family as well. The love Grandma and Grandad showed in these two scenarios lives on to this day. I can feel it as I write this. Not only do my grandparents live on in me through my genetics, but the memories help them to live on in me through my actions. When I think of their resilience and love, it encourages me to act from a similar place.

We’re moving into a time of year when various cultures believe the veil between the living and the dead is thin. As we begin to enter the “dying” and dark season of winter, holidays like All Hallows’ Eve, Halloween, All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day, and Día de los Muertos recognize the importance of remembering, honoring, and celebrating our ancestors and loved ones. Regardless of your beliefs, you too can participate in these holiday’s sentiments by sharing memories you treasure. You can also borrow from these other traditions and do things like: visiting, cleaning, and decorating graves; creating altars with photographs, pictures, and candles; and, attending religious services in the names of the deceased.

In addition to memories becoming treasures as we remember our loved ones, holding memories before us also reminds us that life is finite and now is the time to live more fully. Hear these words from Mary Oliver’s poem, “When Death Comes.”  “When it’s over, I want to say: all my life/I was a bride married to amazement./ I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms./ When It’s over, I don’t want to wonder/if I have made of my life something particular, and real./ don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened/or full of argument./ I don’t want to wind up simply having visited this world.” This time of year invites us to do more than simply visiting this world.

To continue this conversation and have many more, please join us at the following gatherings:

More information can be found on the Bereavement Gatherings and Events page of the Koch Funeral Home website. To reserve your spot and receive the invitation links, email Jackie@JackieHook.com, call 814-237-2712, or visit the Koch Funeral Home Facebook page @kochFH.

Jackie Naginey Hook, MA, is a spiritual director, celebrant, and end-of-life doula.  She coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program through Koch Funeral Home in State College.  For more information, please call 814-237-2712 or visit www.kochfuneralhome.com.


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