The New Year: Keeping them alive in our hearts
“I am the living legacy to/The leader of the band.”
—From “Leader of the Band”
by Dan Fogelberg
We all deal with loss.
How we deal with it is tailored to each of us.
During the years, I’ve experienced the loss of many things in my life: Family, friends, freedom, health and more.
Losing someone to death is, of course, the worst. The finality of it leaves a person feeling left behind, struggling to make sense of what has happened.
And yet, we as human beings have the capacity to continue to move forward, even in the wake of a huge loss.
My experience has taught me that the most important way to deal with the loss of a loved one is through keeping them alive in our hearts. How is it done?
For me, it’s an everyday action. Somehow, in some small way, remember the person every day. It can be through a large gesture or a small reflection. Tell a story about the person. Use a phrase of theirs. Play one of their favorite songs or stop by one of their favorite places.
One of my favorites: Talk with people who knew the person. You’ll be surprised how much you learn about your loved one that you didn’t know. People know people in diverse ways.
I could make you a lengthy list of the people who continue to influence me long after they have left this earth. During Christmastime and the runup to the New Year, it’s only natural to reflect on them.
Those reflections bring far more smiles than tears because I don’t think of them as gone, just not as available as they once were.
We live in a fortunate age, where so many of us have audio and video of our loved ones readily available to call up in a flash if we need it. It’s staggering to think about how billions of people’s actions have been captured digitally in some form or another during the last 20 years. It’s probably brought more comfort than we all know to have the ability to hit a button and see and hear our lost loved ones on our phones.
It is a comfort. But the memories I’m referring to aren’t stored in a phone. They’re stored in the hearts and minds of the people who remember their loved ones with passion. You see these people at the cemeteries. They’re the driving forces behind naming fields and erecting monuments filled with names and creating scholarships named for people who continue to be loved, long after they are gone.
That’s really the heart of it, of course. The people left behind know that by keeping something going, then in some way the person isn’t completely gone. They live on in us, in what we do each day and how we do it—especially if we remain devoted to their memory in what we do and how we do it.
I’ve always loved underdog stories. The Rocky movies provide some of the best. One of my favorite lines from the entire movie series is from the movie Rocky Balboa. I received a mug with the quote on it during a Christmas gift exchange at The Gazette in 2019, right before the world was turned upside down by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Here is the quote:
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done,” the fighter Rocky Balboa said to his son in the movie Rocky Balboa.
Remember: Keep them alive in your hearts.
And you will keep moving forward.
Gabriel J. Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.