Those of you who have been reading my blogs for a couple years now already know that I have written a lot about my Mother, her decline from Parkinson’s Disease, and my struggle dealing with all of that. Today I am writing something different.
My Mother passed away on Saturday, June 10, 2017. There. It’s in writing, so it is officially REAL now. Yet, it seems surreal to me; even after ten years of watching over her every move, it doesn’t seem possible that the person I have known for all of my 66 years is completely gone. Forever. And that Finality is what is difficult for the mind to grasp and process.
So, I have cleaned out her room at the long-term care facility where she spent the last six and a half years. I have gone through the boxes of stuff that accumulated in that room: angel figurines, little crosses, stuffed animals, cards, letters, donated knitted items, and prizes she won playing Bingo. These items show the love that her friends, old and new, felt for her. Most of them will be donated to charities, or offered to her granddaughter.
I will keep a few things: all the photographs, the paper memorabilia from her trip to Italy, and the medium weight fleece coat from L.L. Bean that I bought her a few years ago. She only wore it a handful of times, as she rarely left the building. I’ll wear it when I go for walks in the Fall, and that way I can take her with me as I enjoy the changing leaves.
The photograph that I have chosen to use for this essay is one that captures part of my Mother’s essence. She loved the Sun, and she was ultra stylish; so this 1940’s picture of her ( I think it might be at Old Orchard Beach) really speaks to me.
It’s hard to chose a single photo to represent someone; we are all so many different people as we grow and age. In the same way, it is hard to look through the boxes of belongings that are left behind when someone dies. The person whose life ends in a nursing home has only a tiny fraction of the things they accumulated; by this time most of their earthly belongings have been bestowed upon others or donated. It seems odd to me that the physical sum of my Mother’s long life has been reduced to several boxes and half a dozen large plastic garbage bags. And, yes, I know, dear Readers, that those material objects don’t really represent our Spirits or our Hearts. They are simply evidence that we lived, made choices, developed relationships, and loved other beings.
But, it is still strange. My Mother and Father owned large homes with dozens of rooms, decorated by my Mom, and lovingly furnished. She was an immaculate housekeeper, and a creative homemaker. The kitchen was always redolent of freshly baked pie or simmering tomato sauce. Her closet was filled to capacity with the latest fashions, shoes, and accessories. Her jewelry box overflowed with spectacular costume jewelry. During the Christmas season, she decorated every room in the house with sparkling floral arrangements, wreaths, and Santa with his reindeer. Now, just a few boxes to represent a life full of joy, sorrow, enterprise, family, and friendships.
I drove up to the donation door of Goodwill yesterday. I unloaded the huge sacks of clothing, shoes, pocketbooks, figurines, and miscellaneous tchotchkes into a rectangular wheeled cart. Thousands of dollars worth of fashion now bagged up in lawn and leaf garbage bags. Remains of a life well-lived. The pleasant young girl with the pink stripes in her hair and the huge tattoo on her right shoulder asked me if I would like a receipt.
I replied “No thank you…I’m good.”