I received a notice from Houston Hospice this week telling me that my loved one had been gone now six months. Has it really been that long? Sometimes it feels like it was yesterday. Sometimes it feels like it's always been. The letter let me know that even though I am starting to feel like I can move on, my life is different now. I'm finding a new normal. And all of that is true.
I'm coming to a point in this process, at least from the perspective of duty, where things are wrapping up. We've emptied every closet, sorted through every drawer, and parceled out personal effects among each other and extended family. We've gone through files, photo albums, desks, and emptied an attic filled almost entirely of my own stuff from childhood. We've moved furniture, taken down framed photos and artwork, and carefully wrapped dishes we will never use again.
Some of this work was very, very difficult. I would leave his home drained of tears and utterly fatigued with a car full of things I just couldn't bear to let go. Some of this work was very, very fruitful, like when I discovered an entire binder of his writing, including the poetry my brother knew existed but hadn't seen in decades. ALL of this work was worthwhile. And necessary. And good.
We are busy now fixing up the place. Fresh paint. New floors. Stainless appliances. It's coming together to make it marketable but all the shine leaves us feeling blind. We can no longer see what made this house his home.
As I finished boxing up his clothes last week, a task I saved for last because I just.couldn't.do.it, I heard him in my head. "They're just clothes, Kristen! Get rid of them for Christ's sake!" And I know that is right. It's just stuff. And it's time to let some go. But when stuff is all you have left, at least in a physical sense, you hold on.
I don't really want this, but sometimes I wish I could take this big huge thing called grief and put IT in a box. Wrap it up to be dealt with later or have it delivered to someone else. But it doesn't work that way, at least not if you're doing it "right."
We can only finish this physical part. Although it's hard and tedious and taxing in every way, it is also healing and special and fulfilling.
And I'm glad it's wrapping up.
Photo Credit thatwhitepaperguy.com.