Treasuring Memories

By: Jayna Hintz, curator of education on January 8th, 2014

Holidays often are difficult for anyone who’s experienced the death of a loved one. Sometimes people find holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays can cause a resurgence of grief or feelings of loss. These are the reasons the Treasuring Memories program was developed in 2008 in collaboration with Aspirus Comfort Care and Hospice Services. On Thursday, January 9, 4-6 pm, individuals and families gather at the Woodson Art Museum to create a personalized memory box.The process of grief is unique to each individual. Creating a commemorative or memorial box is a way to keep alive and honor the memory of a loved one. Grief is not about forgetting the person who has died; it’s about finding ways to remember.

Memories and feelings associated with those we’ve lost stay alive inside us and we need to find ways to express them. Making a memory box is one way to do that and keep alive those memories. A simple box can be altered to become a place for special keepsakes and letters, and be a way to express thoughts and feelings connected to the person we knew and loved.

“When a loved one dies, the process of grieving is a completion that allows us to honor that person’s life and claim the wisdom we have gained through the relationship,” wrote Joan Borysenko, who stresses the importance of the mind-body connection in healing.

I’ve created a number of memory boxes over the years, mostly in memory of my father. He would have been eighty-three on January 9. It’s purely a coincidence that the Treasuring Memories program will be held on the date of his birth. One way I can honor the wisdom I have gained as his daughter and celebrate his life is through the creation of memory boxes.

The first memory box I created was near the time of my father’s death. I didn’t even know it was called a memory box; it was my way of containing and expressing my grief. I incorporated a poem from a sympathy card I had received, the date of his death, and a photo I had taken of his hands with my daughter’s hands.

A memory box I made a number of years after his death celebrated his love for nature and pride of his ancestry. On the outside of the box, I incorporated images of treetops. Inside the box, an image of a single, sturdy tree represents the quiet, solid strength and love my father shared.

The most recent memory box I created celebrates the ability my father had to attentively listen and communicate the wonder of our universe and the world. We spent many hours naming the constellations and pondering what might exist beyond the stars. We also discussed what once walked the earth where we live and how, at some level, we are all connected.

Creating a memory box could become part of a new tradition for you – something to treasure each year – and provide a time to remember, to express feelings, and to be enriched.

Please join us on January 9, 4-6 pm, at the Woodson Art Museum to treasure the memories of those we’ve loved and lost.

As Shakespeare wrote, “Praising what is lost makes the remembrance dear.”

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