Packed up Mom's stuff. We had everything set out in the little bedroom and in the basement. Rows of little Santas, silk roses, sewing baskets, a jewelry box given to her by Leona. Looked like a little second-hand store and all the grandchildren could wander about choosing what they would like to remember Grandma by. Amazingly, Dad did not insist that we get everything out right away so he could re-establish his Marine corp order throughout the house. This is the guy who ten minutes after he opened Christmas presents everything would be filed aways in dresser drawers and cupboard shelves, tissue paper neatly folded and in the recycle bin. Perhaps he liked having this little bit of Mom tucked away into the corners for just a little while.
It's all about stuff, you know. We all have stuff. Even the homeless guy has his plastic bags and swollen coat pockets full of that all important stuff. It was always said that when Gandhi, a truly non-material world kind of guy, died all of his stuff could be put in a shoebox. But he did have stuff. Just not that much.
Mom loved her stuff. She kept little things around her that made her feel good. A Peruvian bookmark Jason had given her. A lap robe from Rita. A small vase from Leona. The latest card from the granddaughters in Florida. After she died I found a small stuffed bunny in her purse. It had been in an Easter basket I had given her in April. She carried it with her to the various appointments and hospitalizations and I like to think it made her feel safe.
When it comes down to it after we're gone those we love remember the stories, the scents, the touch of a hand, the sound of a laugh, and . . . the stuff.
Another hot afternoon in Sonny's basement. I had not been this hot since I was stupid enough to visit Florida in July. My pores seemed the size of nickels and rivulets ran down my face. My hair was slick and I could taste the salt on my lips. I - am - getting - this - done - today. Dad went somewhere on yet another Dad-related chore. And then I started crying. Hiccuppy-kind of crying, the worse kind, like your soul is trying to escape its mortal confines. Holding Mom's little dolls, her necklaces, all her Halloween pumpkins I felt a presence. I had not felt her since the first couple of days after her death. Then she left me and I felt she was lost in a great void that I could not transcend. Not yet, anyway. I felt like she was navigating it as well. I would think the newly deceased need to learn how to be . . . well, gone. But today Mom's spirit felt fidgety - bouncing against the walls. Yeah, I may be losing it but I spent several hours in that overly-heated house talking to Mom, crying, asking Mom, why did you keep this? and oh, Marie, look at that and all the time realizing that this was a special time. A daughter putting away her mother's last possessions. Items that defined her, made her feel comforted, blazed memories in the minds of her children. All the Christmas trees, the vases filled with summer flowers, the sparkly pins I remember from dinners out. The times I looked in my mother's jewelry box while she was still alive and fingered the gold chains remembering when she wore them last. I wrapped up the last item, a little papermache Halloween witch and felt a heaviness in my chest. In a very large way Mom would now be leaving me. We live in a physical, tangible world. And this may be a primitive level to our spiritual self but it is what we know from the first breath. What we can feel and see. Oh, Mom, with these boxes go some of my best memories. But they need to go. I am my father's daughter and I know that setting my sights on a productive tomorrow will help heal the pain I feel in the present. But oh boy, Mom, all of this, your stuff, I'm gonna miss it.