I read that some people treasure keepsakes, and I never understood why. But when we cherish a piece of the heart someone left us in form of an object, we can later reflect. If we throw a keepsake away, it’s like throwing away a beautiful memory or a close relationship. When that person leaves this world, what do we have left to stare at? Careless disregard? Guilt? Or the feeling that we truly cherished the person?
My brother would ask me about people of our past. I brushed off my brother, saying I had no attachment to people of the distant past, only people of the present. I said history didn’t mean much. But each moment in history etches who we are. As we age, those people of our past draw out life’s most important question, “How much did we love the people in our lives?”
A beautiful friend wrote a poem about me. It spoke about how I had big dreams, and it used the metaphor of a mountain. In that poem, I climbed that mountain but kept falling. The world was pulling me down. At the end of the poem, I barely made it to the top, beaten and bruised. And I put down a white flag, a victor.
The poem terrified me—so much so that, years later, I threw it out. But today I feel a great loss without that poem, without that shared history between me and my friend, without that precious reminder that love sparkles for everyone even in the darkest times, even in the loneliest moments. I now wish I never threw that poem out. I asked my friend yesterday if I could pay her to write a new one. I assured her I’d keep it for the rest of my life. The poem was precious history lost.
In another instant, I had photos of me and a person I once loved on our trip to Hawaii. But after the relationship ended, I threw the photos away. I didn’t have the heart to look at them. And now, as he enters his twilight decades, I’ve nothing by which to remember those years, but regret.
In yet another instant, I begged my mom for a painting my aunt made. I hung it up on my living room wall. When it came time to move to a new suite, I left that painting behind, believing my aunt disliked me. But today I have a beautiful relationship with my aunt, one I cherish deeply, one based on a gentle friendship. Yet, she’s in her 70s, and within a decade, I may lose her. And then I’ll look up to an empty wall, crushed.
When we cherish keepsakes our loved ones give, we immortalize those bonds. We nurture the history. We pay homage to those who shared our journey. The people in our lives are all there for a reason. At the end of the day, we must ask ourselves, “How much did we cherish the people in our lives?” Or simply stated, “How much did we love?”
[Marie Well has been writing for The Voice Magazine for years, but this recent piece from the November 20th issue was a departure from her usual style, and one that worked very well, thus landing it a spot in the Best of 2020 edition.]