23 October 2008

If you've lost someone...

...then I think you will understand.

A little over three years ago, I lost my mother. The circumstances were unpleasant, though not entirely unexpected. Today really isn't an important date, like the anniversary of her death or her birthday. It just so happened that I have been going through all of her belongings. At the time of her death, perhaps coincidentally or as part of the universal plan, my life entered a period of upheaval, both bad and good, from which I am just now recovering. All of my mother's things, including my grandmother's and my uncle's belongings that she had after their deaths, went into storage. And there they stayed. But storage is much more expensive than dealing with things that need to be dealt with. And so everything is now in my house. Boxes and boxes and boxes of things. Books and diaries and pieces of my childhood mixed in with bills and old newspapers. I literally sort through each box paper by paper. By paper by paper.

The other day, I was listening to "Fresh Air." A woman had written a book about loss, and she talked a little bit about the strangeness of a person being there one moment and then gone the next, leaving everything - their clothes, their hair brush, their shoes, their work - behind. And I thought "yes. That is the part that is so odd." I had never heard anyone describe it in the words this woman used. Somehow it struck a chord with me. And I thought about that today when I picked up a T-shirt of my mother's. I had unearthed it the other day in one of the endless boxes. When I pulled it over my head, it smelled like her. And somehow, that is something my little human brain cannot wrap itself around. How can something still smell like a person who has been gone for over three years? How can her gloves still show the imprint of her hand? How can her shoes still look worn, even though she is not here to wear them?

I don't know why I am telling you all this; I'm not usually one to write about the very personal. But somehow, I just needed to. Thank you for reading it.

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35 Comments:

Blogger Laritza said...

I lost my Mom 15 years ago. Very long years without her, I have some of her things that smell like her. I will never part with those things but even without them she is always with me and I miss her every single day that goes by.

10:28 PM  
Blogger Carole Knits said...

I get it. I wish I didn't but I do. Going through those boxes must be difficult but its also a gift. When my mom died my dad just threw things away without even asking me and there was so much I would have wanted to at least look at, if not keep.
I remember going through my brother's house after he died and thinking how weird it was to be looking at all his stuff without him there.

4:27 AM  
Blogger Dani said...

Thank you for sharing Romi. I hope that it has helped you, as I am sure it has helped each of us in some small way

4:29 AM  
Blogger Joansie said...

Thank you for sharing your feelings. I lost a beloved aunt many years ago. She was one who loved me so much and did everything for me. If I had one wish, it would be to spend one more holiday season with her.

May you find comfort in the lost of your mom in the happy memories that you have.

4:45 AM  
Blogger sophanne said...

and conversely, I think something similar every time a baby is born. First they're not there and then they are there. Such a magical puzzle.

4:56 AM  
Blogger Susan said...

I lost my aunt 5 years ago at 46. I still have stuff of hers in my closet that I can't bear to part with. I keep them for that very reason.

6:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My mom passed in March of 2006. Six months ago someone gave me a basket that she used to use to deliver her homemade pies to church socials and such. I put it in my car that day with tears streaming down my face, knowing not many had touched it since she had last touched it. To be honest, it has been in the back seat of my car since, because I can't bear to bring it into the house. Touching it again would simply be too painful. It is already hard enough to miss her each and every day as it is.

I don't know why this object represents her in the here and now, other than I have nothing else to represent her now. I know I continue to need and want her here in this reality, so these objects are how I keep her here with me; but the object's lack of animation and true representation of the mother that once was makes me very sad.

6:38 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

I was thirty before I lost anyone I was truly close to, and it was my maternal grandmother. As the only one of seven grandchildren into any kind of fiber arts, I got all her crafting things by default. Any time I use them, or sometimes just when I'm knitting, I feel a sense of her so profound that my loss seems new again. But I also feel a strong sense of continuity, especially when I finished the sweater I just did for my grandson. Grandma knitted for me, now I'm the grandma doing the knitting. There's something in that that is beautiful to me, and I cherish it.

7:04 AM  
Blogger Trish - My Merino Mantra said...

I completely understand. My mother died 6 years ago, and I still grieve. I also have all of her things. I can't bear to part with them. Every now and then, when I am going through a difficult period, I will sift through her things, and end up finding something pertinent to my situation. It's as if she is right there next to me, but yet, not.

7:13 AM  
Blogger Bridget said...

I know exactly what you mean. My mother died 20 years ago, and I still have a scarf that smells like her. I never wear it but I like having it around.

7:19 AM  
Blogger Dr. Steph said...

*nodding head in agreement*

and a hug for you.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Losing someone always leaves imprints on your heart. little things, inconsequential things, that somehow are magnified when they are gone....

7:57 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

I've never had to go through the belongings of anyone I've lost, so had never thought of that. It must be a somewhat bittersweet feeling going through your mom's belongings. I'm sure it's healing as well, though. Thank you for sharing with us.

8:15 AM  
Blogger Kelly said...

I lost my mom in 1998. My sister and I had to sift through the stuff, give it away, keep what we wanted to keep... I kept her purse as she left it. She had some micro-cassette tapes of her thoughts (her voice) and I listened to them for years afterward. She was very crafty and I still have her craft chair next to my bed and her favorite needlepoint hanging above the chair. She wore a perfume that when I smell on someone else, it brings back the wonderful memories of hugging her.
I guess I am just as close to my grandmother who is still alive (also very crafty, teaching me to crochet when I was 7). Since there are 7 children, 24 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren, I doubt I will receive any of her things. She did give me two doilies that she made when she was a child, so I cherish those.
Take care and I hope that all of the memories are happy ones.

9:07 AM  
Blogger Cari said...

And thank you for sharing it.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Tiny Tyrant said...

It's not easy Rosemary. We've spent the last two weeks going through Ken's mom's stuff, which includes all his grandparents stuff as well. Pictures of relatives we don't know, and knowing there is no one left to tell us who they were.

He taken to using one of her pillows in his favorite chair because it smells like her, and I suspect it always will.

Hugs honey.

11:09 AM  
Blogger Mariss said...

Hugs to you. Take your time with whatever you decide to do. We still have my brother's stuff at my parent's house, and we have no schedule to get rid of it yet. I'm glad you can still smell her.

1:39 PM  
Blogger Sandy said...

Thanks for sharing, Rosemary. I just lost my grandmother a few days ago. Perhaps I should go hunt down that episode of Fresh Air...

1:50 PM  
Blogger knitalot3 said...

I get it. It's never easy. My dad died eighteen years ago.

LisaK

3:47 PM  
Blogger Chloe Sparkle said...

>hug<

6:04 PM  
Blogger Melanie said...

When they go, they take a piece of your heart with them. It doesn't seem right that their things are here without them. I still haven't opened the boxes ... eight years later. Thanks for sharing, you've obviously struck a chord.

6:40 PM  
Blogger Hope said...

Unfortunately I completely understand what you are saying. I still don't believe my mom is gone. :-(

7:31 PM  
Blogger Debi said...

Despite all evidence to the contrary I still expect my Dad, gone 2 years Dec. 12, to walk thru my front door.

Thanks for sharing your eloquent thoughts Rosemary.

9:20 PM  
Blogger Rudee said...

What a beautiful post. I feel some of this when I look at something my mom wrote. I love looking at pictures and seeing the captions she left. I miss her.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Beverly said...

Thank you for sharing such a personal post. My thoughts are with you.

10:22 AM  
Blogger laura gayle said...

{{{hugs}}}

My mom saved a couple of pieces of Dad's clothing for the very same reason. I was close to my great-grandfather (as close as a 4 year old can be), and I was given the scissors he used to trim his beard with -- they still have great value to me.

5:34 AM  
Blogger Yarnhog said...

I can't add anything to what other have said, but thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

11:11 AM  
Anonymous AlisonH said...

Thank you for writing that, Rosemary. My heart goes out to you and your boys and I want to dash over and give you a hug.

And help somehow in the going through box after box after box.

5:14 PM  
Blogger Jean said...

You account is very touching, most of us (if we have lived long enough) have lost someone we love, scent has such power to trigger long forgotten memories. The thing is that we have this wonderful ability to remember and our tenderness remains intact, it is a part of who we are. I know this is a bit condensed or even choppy, but my intent is to say that we share things with others when we need to.

6:10 PM  
Blogger Pilar said...

Thanks for sharing this. It is always long process, one you may never recover from. You will learn so much about the kind of woman she was, and you'll find so much of her in you :)

9:41 AM  
Blogger Michelle B said...

It's amazing how many memories can be wrapped up in various objects. I know how you feel - it's been 12 years for me and I miss her so much.

3:25 PM  
Blogger N. Maria said...

Romi, she can leave her scent and the imprint of her hand in gloves because she was here...[I say that with tenderness] You dear person - you will never forget but the pain of loss does ease up a bit.
My true love husband was killed in '83....2 days before our 5th wedding anniversary. I still smell his scent and am reminded of him daily.
Much love to you........

11:41 PM  
Blogger vanessa said...

i know exactly how you feel. my dad had been gone 20 years and it still feels like i could call him on the phone.

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Pink Dandelion said...

((((HUGS))))
Though not the same as losing a parent - My grandfather passed away 6 years ago, and for some reason - despite losing 2 other grandparents since- I still have the hardest time with his death. The smell of his coat (which I insisted on keeping) can still turn me into a soggy basket-case. I remember walking into their house just after losing him, and it feeling as if I'd find him in a room working away at something. The crossword puzzle he'd worked in the paper the day before was by his chair. I cry every year on our shared birthday. It still throws me when I see a piece of paper with his distinct handwriting on it. A couple days ago someone had an old family video on, and I heard his voice calling to my sister from off screen. It was one of the strangest feelings and, like their stuff being left behind, I felt like I shouldn't be able to still hear his voice...

4:40 PM  
Blogger Kay-From the Back Yard said...

In her book, "Where I was From," Joan Didion said, "There is no real way to deal with loss." Such a simple statement and so profoundly true. Later, she wrote "The Year of Magical Thinking," about her grief after the death of her husband. In it she tells how she was unable to give away his shoes, and I totally understood.

I'm so sorry for your loss.

6:26 AM  

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