I’m on my fifth visit to Hawaii in the last 12 months. This time I’ll only be here for 11 days. Luckily I can “work” from anywhere in the world, including the dining room in my parents suburban townhouse (which just happens to be in paradise overlooking a tropical gulch in the backyard). From the dining room, I keep watch over my dad through the reflection in the glass of curio cabinet. I hear his labored breaths and see his nodded head and propped feet. I’m trying to “work” but honestly, I’m not getting anything done. My mind keeps drifting to the sounds of the afternoon rain, the calls of the birds and the thoughts of all the things I’ll miss celebrating with my dad.
At home in San Francisco on my nightstand, I have a gratitude jar, where each night I write one or several things for which I felt grateful that day. I write my graces on pretty origami sheets and then I fold them up so the print shows on the outside. At the end of the year, I have a beautiful jar filled with an entire year’s worth of good memories.
The thing I dread most when I think of my dad not being here are all the things he hadn’t yet seen me accomplish. He hasn’t seen me get married, raise a family, become successful… the list goes on. I pine for memories that haven’t yet been created. I pine for conversations that may never happen.
My dad is of a generation where men don’t express their emotions, shed tears or tell their daughters how much they love them. On top of that, he’s Okinawan born in Hawaii, with an extra layer of emotional silence. To simply chat with my dad and hear about his fears, hopes, and dreams for him or me is just not going to happen.
Preserving Memories in a Goodbye Jar
I want a to bottle up past and future memories of my dad’s hopes and dreams for me, of all things my dad couldn’t ever tell me. So I decided to create a Goodbye Jar, similar to my Gratitude Jar. My mom, an avid crafter, has a huge assortment of pretty papers. I cut up a few squares, found a pretty jar and placed it on my dad’s table next to the couch where my dad naps.
I asked my dad to write down the things he always wanted to tell me or my mom and to fold them up and seal them in the jar. I promised that I would not read them until it was time. I told him that I wanted something to hold when I missed him after he was gone.
To my delight, my dad has actually scribbled a bunch of things and started filling up the jar. I know it’s easier for him to express his emotions through writing than to speak them out loud. I know that this jar will be filled with love. I know there will be many surprises. And maybe it will even be filled with the memories for which I pine. Despite all this anticipatory grief this token my dad is creating gives me relief, knowing that I will have something to hold and cherish when it is finally time to say our final goodbyes.
Create your Own Goodbye Jar
- Get mini origami paper or cut up pretty printed paper into squares
- Find a pretty jar and decorate it how you’d like
- Set paper and jar in a convenient and visible place
- Invite your loved one to write wishes, hopes, or gratitudes for you.
- Read the contents of the jar when you miss your loved one