We celebrated the birthdays of my son and son-in-law with a round of golf at Wattle Park Public Golf Course. Before teeing off I informed the playing group that the last time I played this course was 50 years ago when I was a teenager. I don’t think my comment made much of an impression. I recognised the layout of the course. The only obvious change was the strategically placed barriers along the long par five to check wayward drives and protect the expensive real estate. I am pleased to say I found them to be effective.
Walking up the first fairway I was reminded of previous golfing days when Adam was a part of the ‘foursome’. Like most occasional golfers Adam could be quite erratic. The perfect drive down the middle of the fairway could be followed by an ungainly slice into the trees. They were and continue to be happy memories.
When you lose someone to suicide your memories are not neatly catalogued but scattered indiscriminately. Initially, the good times fade from view because the death overshadows everything.
Tom Smith, author of The Unique Grief of Suicide: Questions and Hope says, “Memories can both comfort us and torment us and sometimes the same memories can do both.”
During the early months following Adam’s death my focus was on recollections of Adam’s physical and mental state, the clipped conversations, the obvious pain and confusion, the encroaching restlessness, the anxiety, and the growing uncertainty about the future. I re-evaluated my own words and actions often with a critical eye. I re-lived every moment trying to imagine how the tragedy might have been averted.
Remembering is not easy. Alan D. Wolfelt, author of Wilderness of Suicide Grief: Finding Your Way says, “Embracing your memories can be a very slow and, at times, painful process that occurs in small steps.”
Remembering is important work as forgetting is not an option. Honouring our loved one places certain demands on us. It asks that we remember truthfully, trying to avoid any embellishment that makes the story more palatable.
William McInnes is an established Australian author whose books celebrate life. In The Laughing Clowns: A Tale of Finding Love Again by Going Home he says,
“Your memories are your life and life is so precious. The friendships, the good times, the happiness, the sorrow – your memories are your most cherished possession. Safeguard them; protect them so you can pass them on.”