As a child, I thought everyone organised their memories in a series of boxes and filing cabinets. Some of the boxes have loosely closed lids that could be easily opened, so the contents could be revisited easily and frequently. The equivalent filing cabinet drawers roll in and out smoothly, with paper beautifully ordered in crisp dividers. Other boxes were locked tight and hidden in the dusty crevices of my mind. These were to be ignored totally, in ways that rendered the memories obsolete, erasing them from the timeline of life.

The boxes and cabinets are not date ordered, they are grouped either by event or sentinel aspect of; so there is a pencil filing cabinet with memories and stories in which pencils were a key factor. There are lots of food cabinets; places are related to food often, exact meals from 40 years ago preserved intact, with the reason for the memory being little to do with the food. More it is an easy classification system.

I am a super star of organising the boxes and filing cabinets in my brain. It baffles me when people ask me to open one that is deliberately locked. What is the point in shining light on pain or trauma? Is it really true that one can only heal through analysis, or is it true that for some people locking the box and throwing away the key is just as helpful, if not more so? I had to stop the grief counselling that I took up, all it did was try and open my locked box of loss, whilst ignoring my open filing cabinet of gratitude for what came before the loss.

Other people, apparently do not have this beautiful storage system in their minds. I can understand that without it, things need to be dealt with differently, and that this difference is important in the healing process for some.

Instead, I have an open box, that sits in my heart, filled with gratitude for all those whanau, family and friends who are walking the journey of my life with me. Whether in short bursts, leaving when their part is needed no more, or longer term. Longer term – holding hands, wiping tears, sharing belly laughs, talking, listening, hearing, never judging, just accepting and loving.

Aroha is undervalued in our world. Without love we are all poorer. I may have lost my loved wife, but I still have so much love in my life, from the fluppy puppy to my Kiwi whanau to my first genuine life mentor/friend. Teaching, guiding, mentoring that are based in love – not sex, love, build solid ground to explore life, learn from mistakes and experience both joys and sorrow. Sorrow held collectively in love is not able to ruin the neat boxes and filing cabinets. Some sorrows are opened and fondly looked over, whilst others are consigned to that black hole of not needed ever again.

Hold your loved ones tightly when they need, and gently when that tight embrace is too painful. Send out the love, through kindness and compassion, to those you meet in the street, at work, in the shops or online.

For those of us with boxes, this keeps our storage rooms in order. For those without, it keeps them grounded in hope.

Arohanui to everyone who has led me to where I am now.