Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sorting through the Odds & Ends of Mom's Life

The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life. ~William Morris

Mom's been gone for over a month now. For a while it's felt like she's still at the memory care facility and I need to go see about her. But that's not so. She doesn't need anybody to see about her now. She's in a better place. Her smile is back. She's laughing and glad to finally be "home" with her mother and dad. She would sometimes say when she had a moment of clarity before the dementia got worse that she was ready to go on except she didn't want to leave us. Then at the end she no longer remembered us so perhaps that made it easier for her to leave. 

We've begun going through her things. So far we've just scratched a little of the surface, but already we're seeing things with no real value except that they meant something to Mom. All the odds and ends of a life well lived. There's the newspaper article with my picture when one of my earlier books was published. Then we find a certificate she received for work with the Homemakers. We go through piles of bird magazines because she did love her birds. We find enough greeting cards and stationery to fill a shopping bag. I know she intended to send each and every card to her many friends. The old Scrabble game that dates back to our childhood is in a shirt box. She saved it even though someone gave her one of the deluxe game boards that swiveled and had little pockets for the tiles. We found the dictionary so well used as she worked her crossword puzzles that it was falling apart. 

Mama's memory is soaked into everything we pick up. We find Dad's jacket with his horseshoe champion patch sewn on it. And there in the back of a closet are his clay court croquet mallets. We take garbage bags full of things to Goodwill and put other garbage bags in the trash. But we also have piles we keep for ourselves. Things we can't seem to part with. I think we're all going to have to build on a storage room. And we haven't even started on the real memory drawers. 

But it has to be done and I'm fortunate to have two sisters to work through the memories with me. What can we save? What will we do with this? Do you want it? Where will we put it? How can we part with it? The questions echo between us.

Mom has keepsakes from her family and from Dad's family too. And now we are going to have keepsakes too. But the best keepsake is all the memories of times with her. We will part with what we have to with sadness, but we'll never part with the memory of her love.  

Have you had to sort through a loved one's things? What was the hardest part of that for you?


11 comments:

  1. I am so sorry Ann, I did not know! Sincerest sympathy to you and your loved ones.
    As I read your post I am reminded of a loved one I said goodbye to and finding the precious mementos of her life, those little things which we couldn't understand she hanged on but meant the world to her. As I put them together, a whole life I knew nothing of just happened in front of my eyes. It is a bittersweet moment.
    Your Mum knew what was important and those souvenirs surely made it easier for her to say goodbye.
    Sending thoughts and prayers,

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    1. Thanks, Noelle. I appreciate your sweet thoughts. You're right. We can see the threads in the fabric of our loved ones' lives when we look at what they kept. Precious memories!

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  2. Oh, my goodness, Ann! My two sisters and I have been doing the very same thing this summer, following our dad's death in April. It's exhausting work since, literally, everything you touch is a decision to be made. We've wrestled with the same questions: Do we keep it? Get rid of it? If we keep it, who gets it? How do we decide who gets it? If we get rid of it, do we give it away? Sell it? Trash it? What do we do with it until we get rid of it? We've had four sessions so far, and it's hard to see our parents' home in such a mess. We've divided up a lot of heirlooms and hauled them to our own houses, which were already full. We're still trying to absorb all these precious things. You get to the point where enough is enough and you just can't deal with any more "stuff," but it's still hard to let go of all the trappings of childhood and your parents' lives. God bless you as you work...I'm there, doing that, too.

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    1. Oh, Nancy, sounds like we're on parallel trails here with two sisters and memories to sort through as we go through a house full of things we want to stay in the family. It is very hard to let got of those things you've seen in a home all your life. Very hard. Wishing you blessings on your days too.

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  3. My father in law passed away 11 days ago. We haven't really gone through his things yet except to find important papers for the funeral and burial. While we were trying to find those papers, we found letters he had written to my two young children and my niece. (I'm sure there are other letters for the other 6 grandchildren but we haven't found them yet.) We had the pastor read these letters at the services. So precious to be able to let my children know how he felt about them in his own words. They were so very close to their PawPaw and my five year old is having a hard time dealing with it. I hope one day she will cherish those words from him.
    Thank you, Ann, for posting about your mother and how you are dealing with her passing. I'm so so sorry for your loss. But it is comforting to me to read your words.

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    1. So sorry for your loss, Amy, but how wonderful to have those letters that he wrote for the grandchildren. I hope he was able to write one for the other children too. It's difficult for young children to give up those beloved grandparents. May the memories of his PawPaw's love be a comfort to him in the years ahead and be something solid in his heart even if he doesn't remember times with him too well. Wishing you and your husband comfort in the days ahead.

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    2. I looked back and see that your 5 year old is a girl. So I'll wish her the memories of her PawPaw's love will always echo in her heart.

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  4. Well, I posted this once, but it disappeared.

    I had a similar experience a few years back when my parents passed away 6 months apart. First, we dealt with Mom's things, then, later, the entire house contents. It was a monumental task that took several weeks. I wrote about my experience in a local magazine. The article is online at these links, one link for each page of the article:
    http://hometownkentenn.com/February-March2012/pg_0024
    http://hometownkentenn.com/February-March2012/pg_0025

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    1. Don't you hate when you do a comment and it just vanishes, Emily, and you're not really sure it's totally vanished. Glad you persevered and tried it again. I'll check out your links. It must have been difficult for you to lose your parents so close together. We have quite a task ahead of us too.

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  5. I have many things, including bedroom and dining room furniture, that belonged to my maternal grandmother - although I wasn't actually the one that sorted through them. My brother and I, as the only grandchildren, will have quite a chore on our hands in the next few years as both my ill parents and aunt pass on.

    My parents have lived in/on the same house/farm for about 68 years - there are large closets and numerous outbuildings full of things neither of my parents have been able to part with. My aunt, however, goes through everything in her small house on a regular basis and has even written down certain possessions that will go to specific people when she is gone.

    My mother had a hard time parting with even the smallest of my grandmother's possessions. I am a person who has a huge problem parting with my possessions also - my plans are to go through and discard much so that my family doesn't have such a hard job when I am gone, but the time to do that never seems to come, perhaps because it is so hard for me to part with things. I wish I knew why and that it were easier for me, because - after all, they ARE just "things" and the true blessing comes from the memories surrounding them.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Bonnie. I do like having things that have been in the family for a long time. My husband's parents didn't have a lot of those sorts of things since they moved around a lot, but Mom's house is crammed with them. Of course, we had already had an auction at the farm after Dad died. There are still things that were sold that I think of with regret. But it was a stressful time and we all did the best we could to clean out those buildings after many, many years of family accumulation. Now we just have what Mom kept, so it's not quite as hard as then. But we do treasure some of the pieces that are in her house. I'm like you in that it's hard for me to part with things. But you're right. They are just things and I will remember the memories associated with them whether I have the "things" or not.

      I need to go through some of my things and thin them out since many of them are not anything anybody else would want to hang on to. Sigh. But it's still hard.

      Hope you are doing okay. Message me and let me know.

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