This week I have been gathering photos for my mother-in-law’s funeral this weekend. These pictures come from around a decade and a half worth of digital files and a few from the previous half decade prior. Nearly twenty years worth of memories – of the life I have lived. Of the life she lived. The life my husband lived. Of the ways those lives entwined together.

It is a fascinating thing to watch the physical changes over the years. To see hair colors shift. Clothing styles evolve. Smile and worry lines appear.

The stories came back, too. Especially the ones that bring smiles and laughs. The adventures. The journeys taken. Even the great escapes on occasion.

And as I worked I found that my eyes were consistently filled with tears. They were filled to the brim, but the tension somehow held most of the way through.

Because that is really the way life works isn’t it?

Most of life we walk with our emotions just below or just barely holding tension on the surface – yet we rarely let our true feelings shine brightly for the world to see.

There are countless reasons for this. The world may find us weak for showing our soft underside. Many people do not want to deal with the difficult realities we face in this life, especially their own emotions surrounding them, and so they seemingly order us to keep our own feelings under wraps. Still other times the emotions are so great, that to let ourselves truly feel them all the time would mean a constant state of pain that is unbearable.

Whatever the reason is, the hard emotions are not always easy to get out. But they are necessary. They are important. And when they do finally escape, they often bring at least some measure of healing.

When my husband died seven months ago, he left me with the gift of Disturbed’s song, Hold Onto Memories. Its lyrics have helped me to cope both as he was dying and in the months since.

The most important lesson is this: yesterday they were here. Today they are not. However, the way we keep them alive is by remembering them. Telling their stories. And then bringing the fight to the world and living as well as we can for as long as we can.

That is how we keep yesterday with us today, even as we have to face the daunting prospect of tomorrow. And find the strength to breathe again.

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