Today is the seven month anniversary of my mom’s death, and I finally worked up the nerve to start going through her things just this week.
I don’t think I’m one of those people who leaves a “shrine” up for a lost loved one, but it’s kind of happened as a consequence of my avoidance behavior. I have snapped at anyone who wants to mess with Mom’s room or her stuff until I can “find the time” to take care of it.
But, it’s not that there’s not time. There has been plenty of time, clearly. It’s just that whenever I looked through the glass doors of her room at the Tibetan prayer flags hanging over her bead and her cute little pug figures, I just couldn’t do it.
This was a room where a human being slept and dreamed and read and wrote in her journal. Where she wept and feared in privacy after a day of putting on a strong face. Where her dogs all piled in bed with her, where artwork by the hands of her grandchildren and a framed, autographed picture of her eternal crush, Kevin Bacon, still hang on the walls.
Truthfully, Mom hadn’t slept in this room for several months before she passed. At some point, she had become too ill to be down in her apartment alone, so we moved her up to the main level and set up a hospital bed in the family room. We put some shelves up on the wall for her knick knacks and some pictures, and brought one of her bookshelves up so that she could have her precious books and journals nearby. We kept her bedroom ready for when she would be well enough to move back downstairs.
But, she never was able to move back downstairs. So, her room stands much as it did a year ago, probably. It has some boxes piled in it now, of papers and other products of us trying to make sense of all of the estate business. There are a couple of laundry baskets full of Christmas presents that Mom received but never used, as her steep decline started on Christmas Day, and she died on New Year’s Eve. There are some birthday presents in there, too, given early, as she would have turned sixty on January 3. These gifts mostly consist of comfort items, such as warm blankets, fuzzy socks, rice bags, and comfy pajamas, and books and journals. We often gave her inspirational books to help her keep up the fight. This time, I had given her a book called, “Dying to be Me”, about a woman who had a near-death experience due to cancer, and had returned to health. It sits in the basket, new and unread.
I decided, this week, to at least go through and start sorting her things into categories so that my sister, Bree, and I can look at everything together and decide what to do with it all. It seems barbaric to give away these things, these items that Mom liked and loved and used. Sure, we will keep the things that hold sentimental value for us or that we knew were particularly special to Mom, but we simply can’t hang on to everything. I wonder who will use these things when we give them away? Who will enjoy all of her Denise Austin DVD’s, her weird snowman cookie jar and her vast collection of self-help books? Not to mention all of the pug stuff. The woman loved pugs.
It also makes me wonder the same things about my own “stuff”. I look around at all of the things that I have collected over my life, and I wonder what people would do with it if I wasn’t here. How would people know what was precious and what was just “stuff?” I have the strong desire to sort everything and purge the non-essential things. These things just create clutter, literally and figuratively, making it harder to see what’s important underneath.
I think, when I go, I might just want to have a wall full of artwork from my grandkids on my walls, a cushy bed that I slept in, with my books and journals alongside it.
Oh, and don’t forget that my autographed copies of the Outlander books are precious, kids.