In the process of Marie Kondo-ing your home and friendships, you’ve probably come across the photo albums. Covered in white, ribbons and lace, they hold the memories of a marriage that ended. What to do with them, keep or toss? Or set them on fire in a trash can?
After the first time my mother spent a month in the hospital in a medically-induced coma, I flew to Vegas to help pack up her condo. It had become obvious that we needed to move her into assisted living and sell her place. When I walked into her bedroom, I was shocked to see wedding photos from her marriage to my father displayed on her bureau.
“Um, mom?” I picked one up and held it out. “Why do you still have these?”
My dad had cheated on her while she was pregnant with my younger sister. He’d made her life a living hell after their divorce, still dragging her into court seven years after it had been finalized. Why would she want to keep any memories around?
She wheeled over to me and took the picture out of my hand, looked at it, and shrugged. “He was a part of my life for fourteen years, and I loved him once. He gave me you three. Why erase years of my life?”
I think of that moment every time I pack up for another move and find my own wedding photos. Ironically, while they show a happy bride and a dress I still adore, they’re also my last pictures of my mother and I together. She died within nine months of my wedding. If I threw out the photos, I’d be tossing my last pictures of us.
Covered in white, ribbons and lace, they hold the memories of a marriage that ended. What to do with them, keep or toss?
Not only do I not want to lose my last memories of her, I know that someday my son will have questions. Does looking at my wedding photos make me safe? Yes, at the moment. That may change someday. But my child already asks questions about my marriage, and he deserves to know that he was born in love.
The decision of what to keep or toss; the photo albums, the pressed flowers, your engagement ring, is a highly personal one. I’d caution you to not make that decision in the heat of the moment while going through the pain of divorce. You could regret it later. Pack up the photo albums and put them in a box somewhere, then take them out occasionally and decide if it’s time to keep or toss.
Sometimes items that remind us of a marriage’s end can hurt, like the rings, and we’re better off selling them and using the money for something better. Other times, those items will serve a purpose much later in life.
When my mother died, it was my job to go through everything she’d left behind. Finding the album with her in the fancy, frilly dress and my dad in the powder blue, wide-labeled 1970’s tux did make me cry, but it also made me smile. It comforted me to know that she had experienced joy and love in her life, even though it had been cut short.
For now, I’m keeping my wedding album, though I’ve pared it down. Whenever I’m angry at another court date, no child support, or difficulties at hand-off, and am tempted to throw it out I remind myself of my mother and her choices. They helped me heal after her death and taught me a powerful lesson about forgiveness and acceptance.
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