“I can’t let go, so I remember… I have to remember. Because memories are all I have left.” ~ Ranata Suzuki
My family recently met at a restaurant for Konnor’s birthday to remember him. I cannot say “celebrated” because I do not think we celebrate the fact that he is missing from our lives. Some would say that you celebrate his life. Yes this is true but we cannot celebrate the empty chair. We are still discovering what feels right for us. So we get together to remember.
He would have turned eleven on March ninth. His parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins and siblings were each asked to share their favorite Konnor memory. Pizza and cupcakes followed by a balloon launch. Spider-man balloons, one of Konnor’s last favorite superheros.
We gathered outside, each holding our own balloon…we shouted “Happy Birthday Konnor!” as everyone let go of their balloon. We watch them float to the heavens. Waiting, watching, as if we could see Konnor himself reach out for one.
I thought about those balloons as I watched them float. I thought about how those may just be the only object we can let go of. And then…
I cried all the way home.
I kept thinking that it shouldn’t be this way. I shouldn’t be sending balloons to the sky for Konnor, he should be here with us. Our new tradition on his birthday and on the date of his passing is to remember and talk about him. His personality, his love. This is all we can do for him.
What remains of Konnor to ensure his younger siblings will know of him is our stories and the pictures of him that we lovingly keep in our homes. Pictures of a boy with a smile that was contagious, forever young, forever loved. Cherished memories. They learn of him through his parents and relatives who knew him best. They will honor a brother never known to them.
Maybe I cried because the sharing of these memories and possessions are all I have left to hold on to.
Perhaps I cried because every time I let go of a balloon, sending it on a supposed trip to heaven, I can’t fool myself enough into believing it will make it there. Konnor will never see them. Symbolism be damned.
Maybe I cried because no matter how many birthdays or anniversaries of his death pass, none of these will ever ease the ache of his absence. None of these new painful traditions will ever allow his sisters to know a brother that radiated love and happiness unlike any other child. They will never know him like we did. However in retrospect, they have been spared the agony of grief.
We release balloons in memory of our Konnor, gone too soon because this is the tradition when someone you love has passed. We let go of those balloons in his honor.
We just can’t let go of him. Because the two years he has been gone has barely been enough time to recover and accept his loss. So we hold tight to his memory just as tightly as we grasped the strings attached those balloons until we were ready to let them go. We talk about his silly smile, his clumsiness, his need to be close to those he loved.
We can’t let go. We hold on to toys kept in trunks, a shirt in glass, scrapbooks, old shoes, a pillow made from his shirt to hold at night.
We can’t let go. We fill shelves with memorabilia. Konnor things. Ironman, Spider-man, and other trinkets. We do this because it reminds us of him. We look at these items that he loved so much, leaving us to love them too. I see Spider-man and I see Konnor.
We have dedicated tattoos and songs. He is everywhere. Because we cannot let go.
This is all we have left. We love the items he left behind and we cherish the things he loved because it allows us to feel closer to him. These pieces of him are still here while he is not. We wear Superhero t-shirts because when we do we are honoring a child and displaying a love nobody but us can understand.
I do not believe those that loved Konnor will ever be able to stop thinking about him or memorializing his short life. I believe grieving is about hanging on and letting go. I think those in grief each have their own way of healing. For my family keeping Konnor’s memory alive is important, his life was a gift and the memories are all we have left. We consider them sacred, we will never let them go.
“There are times in life when people must know when not to let go. Balloons are designed to teach small children this.”
– Terry Pratchett