It's a terrible thing to lose someone. To know you will never again be able to touch them or hear their voice. It is painful and tragic. But a greater tragedy still waits for us down the road - when their memory starts to fade from our mind...
Maman (mama) Bédard was not family but she had been a part of my family's life since before I was born; since before my mother was born. She had been a friend of my grandmother for most of her life. When my parents went to work at their first jobs, she babysat me, as she had babysat my mother some 23 years before. Many of my early childhood memories are of her and of her house. I can remember looking on for hours at the drinking bird they had displayed in the kitchen. It was the most fascinating thing I had ever seen and I never tired of it.
Maman Bédard passed away some years ago. She had been sick for a long time so it was something of a relief to us that her suffering was over.
I thought about her the other day. I don't know what triggered it. A sound? A smell perhaps? All I know is that I felt a tightening in my stomach when I realised I couldn't call up her face clearly in my mind's eye. And I suddently felt very sad. She was slipping away. I was loosing her completely, slowly but surely. I could still recall her shining smile and the sparkle in her eyes when she laughed. But her nose? Ears? The colour of her eyes? It was as if I was trying to look at her reflection in a fogged up bathroom mirror and I couldn't see all of her face anymore. Closing my eyes, I could almost hear her voice. I knew I would recognize it if I heard it but I couldn't recall her saying my name.
As human beings, we have been blessed with a special gift. Long after we have lost something, or someone, in the physical world, we can still recall them in our mind. At first, it is often as vivid as if the person was right in front of us. And the greater the bond with this person, the easier it is to bring up the person in our mind's eye and the clearer the images we can recall. But this is an imperfect gift for no matter how much we cherished the person, their memory will eventually ebb away.
I know there will come a time when I will struggle to recall Maman Bédard's first name and that one day, her face will be completely gone. And on that day, I will shed a tear. But only one!
Because although her face may slip from my mind, the love that she gave me so freely and generously for so many years never will. The head may forget but the heart does not. Love does not fade. If anything, it grows with time and becomes part of you. I know now that Maman Bédard will always be with me and that her love for me is passed on everytime I treat children with the same kindness and respect she showed to me. Besides, to this day, I believe that she still watches over us. I think I might just have heard he laugh.