A GOOD LEGACY
Yesterday, I woke up with the glorious anticipation of today. Jay’s Junk is arriving at 11:00am and I had to get ready. As I contemplated the immense quantity of items I have accumulated in my life, I tried to look at the task from a different perspective.
One day a few years back I found myself sitting in an emergency hospital waiting room and came across an article in a health magazine targeted for hospital waiting rooms. It was written by a man who has the unfortunate task of going through his mother’s household after she had died and there were a lot of things. Apparently, her death was not a sudden loss. She had been ill and had many months if not years to consider the contents of her home, but chose not to, leaving it for her family. Maybe she thought that these things she was leaving were important legacies for them. Photos, old cards from family on birthdays and anniversaries, furniture from her grandmother’s house she had taken into her own. AND MUCH MUCH MORE.
Her son was writing an article on legacy and bereavement and his point was that so many parents are concerned about leaving their children gifts of money, real estate etc, but that he felt one of the better gifts is to leave the children without the stuff to have to sift through. This article really stuck with me because I have things that my son would have no idea of their importance. I could see the frustration in having to determine what should stay, what should go, who should have what and so on. Do I keep the turquoise dial phone she never used, but had on display in her pantry? (yes) What about all of this art? (yes) Her Wonder Woman collection? (yes) see the problem? I am already having heart palpitations thinking about what would become of these things. My grandparents decided early on that whatever we wanted we should tell them while they were alive and they would tag each item so after they passed away, it would be easier. This is a great thing to do and my personal plan is to start putting stories and histories on some of the more valuable things so it doesn’t end up in Jay’s truck after I am gone, but in my son’s bank account or in a friend’s home.
The article was insightful, filled with the pain he and his family had in going through her salt and pepper shaker collection and thinking what on earth am I going to do with this? The feelings of guilt at throwing it out because as much personal value it had for his mother, it had zero for him and it surely had no significant monetary value. What to do?
His suggestion was to make sure that the content of your home was deliberate. I really appreciated the honesty as I considered my own piles. I have also recently heard of a story about a woman who passed away, I think she may have been an art teacher or an artist or something. Her family decided to do a pine coffin at her wake and everyone who came to the wake was able to write or draw something on the actual coffin. It may sound sacrilegious to some, but I really loved the idea of this. The other really great part of this funeral was she had a collection of something, I can’t remember what, let’s just say salt boxes for the point of this. They took the entire collection and put it on a table and asked everyone to take one on their way out. I LOVE THIS IDEA. Not that I am planning my funeral or anything, but what a really creative way to have parts of yourself and your collection spread out to friends and family. I can actually see my entire turquoise collection of kitchen ware at my service for all to take.
Anyway as I began the ridiculous project of going through my things I tried to remove the emotion out of it. This is difficult because as I began going through photos especially, trashing photos is hard. Seriously what the hell am I going to do with five thousand photos of my son that are duplicates and already in photo albums that he probably won’t ever look at anyway. It’s funny, the older I get, the less sentimental. I was super sentimental when I was younger probably because I had such a fractured home life. Every single thing my grandparents would offer me I would hungrily take thinking it would fill the big hole in my heart I had from the loss of my teenage years. The reality though is that I took that loss and with my husband at the time, transformed it into a really stable home life for our son, both married and divorced, we never lost sight of Michael, except for maybe a few blips. Michael doesn’t have the hole I had. He is good. So the photos and the stuff don’t have that type of sentimental significance that it had for me. As I approached the project, I decided to look at it as if I were Michael going through his mother’s things. What would I know to be important and what could I easily remove?
This is how I came to my day today, waiting patiently for Jay’s Junk to arrive and begin the process of getting my house in order so that the only things that are left here are the things that have a story I could tell to him by what is left.
I know this is only the beginning of the process, because once I start to see the clearing of space, once I feel the lightness it offers up, it will likely become an addiction. When we surround ourselves with things that suffocate and weigh us down, it blocks universal flow; at least this is my experience. So moving it, removing it, changing its place of importance at the foundation of my home, my basement is a freedom I personally am looking forward to. Stay tuned for the after photos, I am sure we will all breathe a sign of relief.