Ruth Yunker is an author, humorist, storyteller, and traveler, championing the power and glory of the older woman. Her latest book is BABY, I’M THE BOSS OF ME. You can listen and laugh, and hear what she has to say on Youtube @ruthyunker. Her books may be purchased on Amazon or her website www.ruthyunker.com. You can follow Ruth on Instagram @ruth.yunker

Memories burst forth this time of year with the energy of the young Husky we have hanging around the house right now. They bubble forth. They leap and yell and whisper. They remind us of all things beautiful and sad, all things joyful and not.

Memories remind us…of our lives, and to me, the older I get, and the more memories I have to remember, the more I cherish them.

But I didn’t always. I used to think memories were for those done living their lives.

How many times have we listened to the elderly person, lost in their past because their future doesn’t hold expectations or hopes or curiosity, rambling on to us about some well-loved moment of their lives. How we patiently, or maybe not so patiently, sit quietly while they struggled to remember a detail, a seemingly inconsequential detail, thus dragging their story on even longer.

But the pleasure they take in the telling, that deep pleasure, so evident on their face, keeps us seated, leaning in to hear them more.

When my mother died, we went to a grief counselor. He instructed us to cherish our memories of her and her life. He said to savor remembering. He said we were not to forget that she had indeed, lived a real life. That she had been here on earth. Alive and breathing. She had talked and interacted and eaten and slept and hugged and laughed. That she had been very very real. That her life was not a memory. Her life was a fact. And we were to hold that fact in our hearts and minds.

Because after the person dies, it is human nature to begin to let go or forget, or certainly allow the memories to fade. The loved one becomes hazy. Their selves indistinct, especially the sound of their voice, their laugh, the feel of their kiss.

The grief counselor said, “Embrace and nurture your memories of your mother. They are real. They should not fade into the haze. Keep your mother alive. Keep her real.”

I am a writer, and part of my work is memoir writing. This is the easiest form of memory work for me…I thought until that grief counselor allowed me to see the need for keeping my memories alive, healthy, remembered.

That sinking into the reverie of past happenings in my life, past loves, past losses, past triumphs, and to actually feel them deep within my psyche, to remember them like it was yesterday is satisfying, but not enough.

I must re-live them. That is the exercise, that is the work. That is the joy that will nourish and excite me, will help me be true to my authentic self. Will keep my mother’s life real. Will validate the life I’ve lived and am continuing to live.

The grief counselor gave me a magnificent gift. The relevance and importance of keeping my memories of real and living entities. The need and permission, in fact, to travel down memory lane, any time I want. And that this is just as life-enhancing as taking up ballroom dancing, going on that tour of the opera world of Vienna, getting in or out of a marriage, rescuing a kitten, or having lobster for New Year’s Eve.

So that I, and you can not only listen to our ancient aunt tell us yet once again about that time she actually saw Santa Claus when she was ve, we can respond in kind, with just as much relish, about that time we saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, and it wasn’t Brenda Lee on the radio!

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Ruth Yunker