I helped my 10-year-old friend clean and organize her room. As she lobbied to keep a shoe that was about to fall apart, I saw shades of myself in her. And a characteristic of my mother.
Her name, which I’m withholding, means moonlight. So I’ll call her Moonlight. An artist, Moonlight saw value in things that might be useful someday.
That shoe? Its unique straps could be saved. I don’t know what for, but I looked at them through her eyes. Maybe, I thought, they’d get a second life in a piece of art.
My mother used to stow things away for someday. I must admit, I inherited the trait to a degree. The practice makes cleaning out a loved one’s stuff after their death, well, interesting. I still don’t know why Mom put a handful of her long, straight, gray hair in a grocery bag.
I found the bag of hair tucked in a drawer of the coffee table. I kept the hair.
“What do you do with your old bras?” Moonlight asked me.
“Throw them away,” I said.
“I cut them here and here,” she said, as if snipping the material with her fingers. She then flattened the cup. “They become coasters.”
There’s a lot of talk out there about decluttering our spaces. A lot of throwing shade about keeping lots of stuff around a house. But I couldn’t come down on Moonlight. She was exploring her creativity.
And I can’t come down too terribly on my mother. All right, yes, her hoarding tendencies gave me a huge project to complete, but honestly, I enjoyed it. As if on an archeological dig, I sifted through hers and Dad’s things and discovered them. I found that often-sought connection people who lose loved ones hope to re-establish.
I needed my mother most when I lost her, and among her things, I found her.
I threw away a lot of stuff, but I kept the teeth she made in dental school, the sketches for paintings she created, a 1995 weight loss chart, and her last crossword book. They mean nothing to others, but for me they give tangible evidence of a person I can no longer hear or touch.
Usefulness may be judged by an emotional value, not necessarily by their original purpose. As long as objects don’t impede our lives, we shouldn’t feel we must get rid of them. Yes, sometimes things do get in the way. Not all things, but some things. Those things need to go. As we trust the process, we will know when to release the “stuff.”
Moonlight’s mother died last year. She’s got her mama’s sequined shoes, roller skates, and lots of other things. This little girl’s space was at a premium, but you better believe I didn’t suggest she throw away a single one of her mama’s things. Moonlight has a lot of healing to do.
The stuff she keeps may end up being very useful someday.
What possession did you inherit that helped during your grief journey? Did it trigger a good memory or help re-establish a sense of connection?
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