After Wesley’s passing I discovered that I was fiercely determined to keep his memory and presence alive for Julia and me. I refused, no I still refuse, to relegate him to some edge of our lives existing as a past memory of which we never speak. In those early hazy days of grief I vowed that the role of widow for me is defined in many ways, but none as important as that of memory keeper for Julia. Her father was kind and selfless, funny and witty and intensely loving. Her knowledge of Wesley will be in part made up of stories and photos and God willing, her own memories. But I cannot be the sole storyteller, it needs to be a circle of those who knew Wesley at different points in his rich life. A boy of 9, a friend and classmate in college and law school, a colleague in the frenzied days of law practice. I can tell the story of being his wife and mother of his child but cannot fill those other gaps and look to others to help me and Julia completely the memory of dear Wesley. Help has come and still comes to help us tell the stories we do not yet know.
But Julia finds her own ways to remember and find Wesley with us. Often her night time prayers are “Thank you God for our day and let us have a good night. Let Daddy be happy in Heaven and let us not be sad. Amen.” My heart catches and eyes often sting with tears to think that in these past months she has had to grow up so much, too much, and the knowledge that she bears of life and loss which is beyond her years. She is not a typical four year old, and I say that without a shadow of pride. I wish she was. But more than grief I’m filled with hope and pride to watch the ways in which she keeps Daddy near.
She often uses our dinner time conversation to talk about Wesley and her questions of, “What did Daddy do that was funny?” and “Do you remember that Daddy liked coconut doughnuts the best?” usually pepper our simple meals. I try to answer her with grace and compassion and above all reassurance. In her questions she wants to ensure I don’t forget anything about Wesley either because I suspect that she is afraid that my memory will dull and as Proverbs says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Julia is intent to keep me sharp!
Her sweet and simple memories of Wesley are those that I cherish dearly, but often she lamented that she could not hug him. Her daddy was a hugger, not only to me and Julia but many people he met and she loved that touch of a strong and loving arms wrapped around her slight body providing protection and safety and unending love. She misses it. I miss it. But recently Julia has begun to find a way to hug Wesley even in his physical absence. She places her little hands over her heart, fingers laced together and squeezes her chest gently. Daddy lives in her heart so when she needs to hug and tell him she loves him, he is there. She talks to him, whispering little snippets of her day or the activities of her mischievous baby dolls and she laughs when he answers her. He is with her and my heart feels Wesley hugging me too as he watches this beautiful child smiling and laughing as her memories, and their memories live on.