Monday, October 8, 2012

Sharing Memories

Our new book, The Memory Keeper, begins, “In the end, only memories remain.”

This came home to us dramatically during the past couple of weeks.

A week ago Saturday, we attended Larry’s fiftieth high school reunion, where we saw many former schoolmates and renewed friendships. Since we grew up in the same neighborhood, and I attended the same school, graduating two years behind Larry, I also knew many of those in attendance.
Some people had changed; others hadn’t. But we all had shared life experiences. The economic and cultural differences in our childhoods seem to have disappeared along with the years. We found that what we shared was far more valuable than what we didn’t. And most of us still remembered how to sing the alma mater—which we did.

One of the folks had put together a short video with photos of the classmates we’d lost over the years, and our mutual sadness and sense of loss filled the room. At the same time, we also shared our gratitude for having known them.

That same sentiment recurred this week when we attended the celebration of the life of my former sister-in-law, Sheila, who died last week.
The event was held at her sister’s home with the entire family present. Since we’d all grown up in the same neighborhood and attended school together, there were few strangers.

When our kids were little, Sheila and I had been quite close, and Kim had been even closer to her auntie. So we felt a genuine loss at her passing.

The remarkable thing was that the three sisters (Sheila, her twin, Sharon, and their older sister, Sue) had all been married twice. And two of the three ex-husbands came. As one told me, “I’m still a member of this family. In fact, my ex-wife and I are better friends now than we’ve ever been.” That says a lot about the love that surrounded everyone.

Our nephew-in-law had put together a slide show of photos of the girls throughout their lives. It played all day. We enjoyed seeing everyone as children. Because the three girls were close in age, we’d thought they were triplets when they were small. They were all about the same size and dressed alike. In fact, their mother told us she often referred to them as ‘the triplets.’

We attended the event primarily to support our niece and nephew. We had a chance to talk to each one of them and were very pleased to hear that they’d been able to spend some quality time with their mom at the end, bringing closure to some childhood issues. We had certainly prayed for that, and our prayers seem to have been answered.

Many of those present had attended our high school, so we heard stories of mutually-shared experiences. Many conversations began, “Remember when…” And we did.

One of the couples looked familiar to us, but we couldn’t place exactly who they were. They finally approached us with the same question. It turns out that he is the brother of Sue’s husband, and he and Larry were in the same class. They had been at the reunion the week before, but we were seated inside and they were outside. We’d probably passed each other several times during the night, but we weren’t able to talk. On Saturday, we did.

Seated at the same table with us at the reunion was a woman who was the girls’ first cousin. Although our hometown of Alhambra, California wasn’t terribly small, our housing tract was. Most of the families bought their homes when the tract was first built, and the majority of them had small children. We’ve always referred to it as an extended family because we all knew each other.

This cousin’s sister had been in my grade, and she was in Larry’s. I said, “I guess you’ve heard about Sheila.”

She gave me a questioning look and answered, “No. What about her?”

At that point, Sheila was in a coma from which she did not emerge. I felt badly about breaking the news at this occasion, but I also felt she should know.

We then learned that the families had been estranged for many years following the death of the girls’ grandmother. The cousin, however, was deeply shaken to discover that Sheila was near death.

She took the initiative and called her cousin Sue. They have agreed to remain in touch and to get together soon.

On Saturday, Sue told me that she’d talked to her mother about her cousin’s call. Sue said she’d like to invite her cousin to come for a visit and that she’d like for her mother to be there.

Her mother’s surprising response was, “That would be very nice.”

So I expect that soon that the family will be sharing more memories and, hopefully, some much-needed healing.

In the end, only memories remain. And we all ought to be grateful that we’re still here to share them.


  1. Hi Lorna,
    Very touching and very true. It's ironic how funerals--like class reunions--have the ability to bring people together and start where they left off, but with the benefit of hindsight. :)

    1. Maybe that's part of the reason we go to them. I'm just pleased that several prayers were answered for the family during a very difficult time.

  2. Life is but a fleeting mist--and memories are what we hold dear. Great post.