8/24/15 - #5 - Grief is A Sneaky Son-of-a-B%$@#
#4 Stuff Is Just Stuff Until It Is A Memory
My Mom worked really hard to stay in control of her destiny until the end. If you kept up with Caringbridge, you knew that Mom wrote her obituary and planned her memorial service down to the last scripture. But, ironically, my Mama didn't leave a lot of instruction about what to do with her "stuff."
After all of the instructions about what I was supposed to do when she was gone, it was a little weird that there were only two material wishes. First, I was to keep her antique bedroom furniture and second her sofa was high quality and I needed to keep it or choose wisely who got it. This should have been enlightening to me. This should tell me that my Mama was already on a higher-plane and knew that stuff was stuff was stuff. And stuff doesn't go to Heaven.
Last September, I went into hyper-fast-clean-out-mode regarding packing up/giving away her condo. I think I thought if I sold it fast it would hurt less. But every time I went to the condo to pack with a well-meaning friend, I became frustrated with trying to answer questions like "April are you sure you want to get rid of this? April if you don't want this can I have it?" I wanted it gone, but I didn't want to make the call. I am grateful to Jen and Meredeth and Lori for taking time to be there with me as I went room by room purging. In retrospect, the coolest thing is everyone found something they wanted before I packed it up to take to CVAN. (Mom DID specify where she wanted me to donate her things). And early in the packing process, we invited the women from Concord's Women Specialty Care and the members of Epworth Church to come and claim a piece of mom . . . .a memory.
Fast forward through a flood from a broken hot-water heater that destroyed the condo floors and put a halt to the "quick sale" prospects, the months on MLS with no interested buyers and then the quick-close-in-two-weeks-sale to a woman who really needed a new start (and the fabulous sofa and kitchen table and the other furniture that remained in the condo. Stuff isn't stuff when it's another woman's answered prayer and path to her independence). The yellow pixie dust was palpable in the condo and I know that the new owner is experiencing a true blessing by living there.
The condo may be gone, but our garage attic in Charlotte is busting at the seams. It is impossible to toss my Mama's memories - her stuff. First, a lot of her stuff is my stuff. Boxes of photos and memorabilia from Governor's School and NC Junior Miss and Mt. Pleasant High School and Duke and more. That's my life and my stuff - I'm not ready to let go. Second, I inherited all of my MaMaw Ruth's stuff. The antique photos and oil lamp and pictures and china - stuff my Mom couldn't part with. Does that mean I need to figure out how to save it too?
Then there are the Bibles, Sunday School materials and prayer journals. Boxes and boxes of those. I decided if she wrote in it, we needed to keep it, but if it was clean we could give to Epworth. Those are up in the attic for awhile. That stuff represents my Mom's faith journey.
Then there is the stuff that made it's way into my life. Camden took all of her earrings and wears some of her clothes. It's so odd sometimes to look at something and thing that it is vaguely familiar and then realize why. Cooking always opens up a memory opportunity from the stainless steel knife I remember using the first time I made dinner for my parents to the sheet cake pan that carried red velvet birthday cake up 85 every year I was at Duke (much to the happiness of my roommates and friends). That stuff is comforting.
And then I know there will be waves of nostalgia and sadness at Christmas when I take out the box of her decorations and decide what to use and what to donate. I couldn't deal with that right now.
My Mom never worried about stuff because she knew she didn't need it in Heaven. But I'm really glad that there was still a lot of it to go through and to keep with me always.