I’ve been absent for about 10 days. I have a really good reason: someone close to me passed away. It was unexpected and sad, but ultimately beautiful and freeing. For her.
I, on the other hand, have been gifted the bulk of her possessions. And it’s a lot. She had a two bedroom apartment stuffed with books, creative project pieces and parts, clothes and the normal belongs of a life richly lived.
The Universe can be douchily ironic. Just as I am in the process of purging and letting go I am presented with a whole house of stuff to manage.
I am not being intentionally insensitive, it is just that I am on the business end of handling this parting. Grief comes in waves mixed with laughter and sweet memories. For now, though, the sorting of that life is the task at hand.
It’s always a process.
In sorting through the markers of her life I am both compelled to keep special tokens and simultaneously light a match and walk away.
There will be no fires.
At first glance the items surrounding me point to a life of abundance. But on closer inspection I find evidence of something more akin to lack and fear. Where one stick of deodorant would suffice I find 4. All the same. Five tall bookcases line the walls of the craft studio. They are packed with scraps of fabric, beads, books on creative endeavors, sewing materials, patterns, paper, glue. There are two computers, a sewing machine and a closet stuffed with mystery. A million tiny notes are scattered about. Half as many projects begun then abandoned.
Elsewhere in the home 3 large bookcases are full of books, sometimes two rows deep, a few photos and other mementos dot the shelves. Stacks of books rest next to the spots most frequented, magazines teeter on tables, the freezer is stuffed with food, the refrigerator the same. The walls are covered in artwork and photos with still more framed pieces leaning against walls waiting for a vacancy. And appliances requested sit in boxes unused.
It is a very accurate representation of its occupant: homey, messy in that creative way and lived in. It’s welcoming and feels safe.
But it’s a lesson. In stuff, in love, in fear, in recognizing what is necessary. In recognizing what is true.
I will continue to sort through belongings, donating many to the faceless masses, gifting some to friends of the deceased and keeping a touchstone or two.
There are boxes full of love – letters, cards, photos of trips and good times – that were perhaps felt and then forgotten. Mementos of troubleless times. (I will study these.) But they were not powerful enough to convince the beholder of her worth. Perhaps for a moment, but long term this sense of ‘not-good-enoughness’ would take a seat beside her.
Receiving things, temporarily created peace. Until they didn’t and more things would be desired, procured. She wasn’t a hoarder, but may have been heading in that direction.
The biggest gift I am getting from this experience will not take up any space in my home. It is the recognition of my own self-worth, my place in the universe. That I matter.
She mattered too, so much more than she could accept and believe. She heard the words over and over again from so many people how she had made a life-changing difference to them, how she had given them peace when they thought none existed, how she awakened in them a creative spirit they didn’t know they had. But she didn’t receive those words, she didn’t integrate them. She wore them for a short time, shared them with those close to her as external evidence of her worth, then shed them like dead skin.
In sorting and purging her things I am infected with a sense of melancholy. In purging my own things and letting go I am left bare, all raw nerves and sensitive teeth. It’s necessary. At times I am elated and giddy. It’s a cleansing with far deeper implications than a tidy home. It’s a liberation. And it’s a process.