Objects that Help us Remember

One of the tough parts about losing a child is the lack of physical mementos of their life.

It is easy to take stock of what I have that reminds me of Zachary:

  • A blanket
  • One sleeper
  • The bear the hospital gave my husband and I
  • His newborn identification bracelet
  • One unfinished album of photographs
  • A velvet blue box containing the urn of my son’s ashes
  • The cards and few gifts that we received at the memorial

This collection seems small but I know very well that it is more than some people have. For some there are no objects that remind them of their child. This may be especially true for those who have an early miscarriage.

I’m a collector at heart – not of the expected sort of things like stamps or records or coins. As a child I plucked rocks from beaches and forest paths; that was my most ‘normal’ collection. In university I collected party confetti which I strung together into wearable art. Now I collect wood, both natural pieces and manufactured cuts and scraps. I use them for my artwork in “The Quiet Rebuild.”

When both my husband’s maternal and paternal grandmother’s died, women who meant the world to me, I was given random items that belonged to them; small collections. A vase. Tea cups. Old picture frames. A ring. When I helped clean out my husband’s maternal grandmother’s home, I took an old typewriter and stained baking tins. Some family member’s did not understand this act and politely refrained from packing a box for themselves. I understand their perspective.

One of my hobbies is candle making.

One of my hobbies is candle making.

Yet for me, especially as a visual person, these objects hold so much meaning. Not only do I think of their original owner when I look at them, but they hold a great deal of sentiment for me in knowing that these objects were owned, touched, used, even cherished by that person.

Maybe their fingerprints still remain.

The old piano we welcomed as the house was emptied after grandma died smelt of a musky basement but every time I sit on the bench with my children and touch the chipped keys I remember Grandma. I can smell her house. While these things make my heart ache and I long to hear her call me Alexa just one more time (which she did since the first time we met because of failed hearing), I love that I am cued to reflect on the beautiful woman who graced my life.

I wish I had more to remember Zachary by. This must be a wish of every parent who longs for their child.

As a collector, my secret mission as the years go by has been to create memories for Zachary. These things will never replace my son, but when I look at them now my mind takes me back to the moments we shared. The bear from the hospital touched his skin. We never washed it. Sometimes I pick it up and breathe in its smell deeply and pretend that everything was different.

I’m not materialistic but objects hold meaning for me. They help me remember and for that I am very thankful. 


  1. Alexis Marie
    Nov 25, 2013

    These are the kind of things I collect for Zachary and what help me in remembering:

    – Photos of our family on Zach’s birthday
    – letters and pictures we draw for him
    – Cards we may receive on his birthday
    – Little momentos from baby remembrance celebrations

    What do other people collect?

  2. Charlotte
    Nov 25, 2013

    Hi Alexis

    I was touched by your comments which brought fond memories to my mind.
    Too often others see our collections or momentos as clutter or junk, without appreciating the feelings they represent. In the history of “family” it was often these “things” accompanied by “stories” that were passed along from generation to generation to hold safe our unique and personal family histories.
    In today’s society it often seems we are too rushed to remember or too technology focused to give value to our collections.
    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to remember and the reminder to pass along my histories.


    • Alexis Marie
      Dec 3, 2013

      Hi Charlotte,
      Thank you so much for commenting! You are right, it is hard for people on the outside to understand the meaning we bestow on the collections in our lives.
      I do hope you pass along your history in a way that is meaningful for you. Already I have started a collection for each of my children in their baby boxes. I know down the road that these objects will be so precious to us all.
      Best wishes always,
      Alexis Marie

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *