After a loved one dies, we want something to remember them by—a photo, snuggly shirt, or treasured object. In memory of your loved one, you may contribute to a health organization or volunteer in the community. But a linking object is something you can hold, and when you do, you feel closer to your loved one.
Life experience taught me this. I’m a bereaved wife, mother, daughter, sister, daughter-in-law, cousin, and friend. I have some special linking objects, and one is my mother’s cut glass water bottle. It probably isn’t worth much, and I don’t care. My mother treasured the bottle and therefore I treasure it.
I don’t know if Mom purchased the bottle or received it as a gift. She gave it to me years before she died. During the holidays I set the filled water bottle on the dinner table. Seeing it reminds me of Mom’s fabulous cooking, adventuresome spirit, and ready laughter. Though she is long gone, the bottle represents Mom’s personality and presence.
My paraplegic husband died a year ago. I was his caregiver for seven years. As his health failed, I thought about linking objects. What would remind me of him? What would symbolize 63 years of marriage? I researched linking objects and visited online companies that make teddy bears from the deceased’s clothing. But I didn’t need a teddy bear or a painted portrait of my husband.
I needed something that represented John’s profound, everlasting love.
John was in supportive care for weeks. I couldn’t visit him because I tested positive for Covid and went to the emergency department because of atrial fibrillation (Thankfully I never developed any symptoms of Covid.) We stayed on touch by phone. John called several times to tell me he loved me “for eternity.” I said I loved him the same way.
Choosing a linking object is a winnowing process. You may choose something associated with your loved one’s occupation, hobby, or leisure. Keep the object as long as necessary. Later, you may want a different object and give the other one away. I just gave my daughter her grandmother’s bread knife. I had it for years and, though it isn’t a good tool, it is an excellent linking object. The knife links my daughter to me, her grandmother, and grandmothers of the past.
What linking object did I choose? After lots of thought, I chose John’s wedding ring. I wear his ring on the right hand and my wedding ring on the left hand. This simple gold band reminds me of John’s devotion and all the years we shared. Dozens of times a day, I feel the ring and it reminds me that love is stronger than death. I still love John and always will.