It seems like the topic of death is continually being brought up in my life. People tend to share stories of families they know who have lost someone. I’ve been surprised how often comments are made regarding any family who has left pictures or personal items up of their loved one after they passed away—their tone implying they think it just isn’t right, (I’m not meaning a shrine, just a picture or two). Over the past few years, I’ve learned many people feel after someone dies, they are gone, therefore, there’s no need to mention that person again, or keep anything related to them. The thought of anything tied to death seems to scare the people I’m talking to. And I should mention each person I’ve had this similar conversation with has never lost anyone close to them.
As I’ve tried to relate to this way of thinking, I remember being invited to Sunday dinner at my FHE brother’s home while attending college at BYU-I. While waiting for dinner, I remember they had a wall decorated with a picture of each of their kids in their family room. I walked over to look at he pictures, as I glanced over each picture, my eyes rested on one of their teenage daughter. Something was different about it... I realized all the pictures were up to date, except for this one. Before I could think too much into it, my FHE brother quietly stated she had passed away years ago. Death was something I wasn’t used to back then, and I remember freezing, not really sure what I should say back to him. But the thing that caught me off guard was how nervous he looked as he waited for me to respond.
Fast forward just a few years later, and suddenly I’m placed in his shoes. Countless people have entered our home and when their eyes rest on a picture of Preslee, many act uncomfortable or even nervous. It used to make me feel uncomfortable, and many times made me feel like I was doing something wrong by keeping Preslee’s picture up in my own home. I now understand my FHE brother’s nervous response.
But the truth is, I have multiple pictures of our daughter displayed in our home. I also have little subtle reminders that strangers wouldn’t realize have any meaning. And if you think I’m crazy for doing so, here’s a little glimpse inside my head as to why I love each picture or reminder.
It’s been four years since I lost my daughter, and there hasn’t been one single day that she hasn’t crossed my mind. As time continues onward, I realize just like every other mother who continues to care or think about her child when they are out of sight, I do too. I think about Preslee, just as I do about my boys. Death didn’t strip away Preslee’s relation to me. She is still my daughter and I still love he fiercely. When grief consumed me, I honestly tried not to think about her at times, but I couldn’t do it. I found it’s innate, it’s part of being a mother, and as painful as it is at times, I now find it a blessing. Even though people might see our situation as our daughter is dead, we view our situation as our daughter is in a different place. Though we’re forced to be separated during the remainder of our lives, I know for a fact Preslee continues to exist—just somewhere else.
So it only seems natural to keep up a few reminders of our daughter, we didn’t disown her because of her death. And trust me, the separation is painful, horrific at times. I leave pictures up to remind me—remind me that it isn’t the end.
Preslee’s pictures mingled in with the rest of the family pictures reminds us that our family can be together forever, and teaches her brothers they have a sister.
The shadow box in my room filled with Preslee’s sandals make me smile each time my eyes fall on it. I’m reminded of the chubby toddler feet I squeezed in there on a daily basis—that I am still her mother.
The drawing of Preslee in Christ’s arms reminds Pat and myself that we don’t have to fear, that she is being taken care of. It also reminds us there are things we need to do in order to be reunited with her.
I know I’m not alone in this way of thinking. I remember a friend telling me that her brother died many years ago while in high school. She smiled when she shared that to this day, you can see smudged kiss marks on her brother picture. Her mom still walks by and from time to time gives it a kiss.
Even if you still don’t understand, and the topic of death still seems…well, scary. Please go easy on momma’s like me. While you get to enjoy thousands of moments with your children, we’re left with two things—memories and heartache.
And if a picture sparks a good memory, I’ll take that over heartache every day.