I once heard the reminiscences of a 70+ year old man who lost his wife to cancer. He certainly did not take his wife’s disappearance lightly. It hurt a lot for him. He loved her so much.
In the number of times we met, he’d always reminisce on his past memories and moments with his loved one. It’s as if he was still walking along with her like it was yesterday.
He wanted to move forward through the remaining precious fragment of his life on earth. Yet he remained never without her.
We need both recollection and relinquishment. Hoarding loving memories is no better than shunning them. When a loved one departs, a need for disengagement is inevitable. Yet such does not have to be without heart.
We may still do the proper leave-taking while not detaching our self off from beautiful sentiments. As writer Rainer Rilke put it, “We live our lives, for ever taking leave.” It seems that we thrive with some fuel coming from a flexible relationship with our past.
Sooner, this man shared that he had to relinquish at some level to live a different sort of life after his wife’s death. He chose to have adventures!
He opened an international business with his adult children, put up a new foundation, and went to gym to do boxing (he’s as strong as one in his 40’s!). He joined groups and met regularly with other men for bible studies.
So now, after his loss, every day, he has such a full life that he won’t run out of things to recollect in his memory!
Somehow, as we age, we tend to be more predisposed to do increasing doses of recollecting amidst relinquishing. Recollecting in our memory seems to seek continuity, no matter how long we live.
As Sharon Kaufman observes, we seek continuity in our recollections “so that a familiar and unified sense of self emerges in old age.”
We all need a theme in our lives, in our recollecting and relinquishing, to account for what is happening to us.