My Mom died suddenly. She was 59.
She hadn't been feeling well. When she wasn't better after 2 weeks, she went to see the doctor. He ran some lab work, and told her she probably had a stomach bug. Her lab results came in the mail the following Monday...all tests were "normal."
She died that night.
Fifteen years ago.
In the days and weeks after her death, our family came together to support my dad. And each other.
One of the most daunting tasks was going through all of my Mom's stuff. She was not only a wife and mother, she was a grandmother, daughter, friend, employee, choir member. My Dad was the director of their Sunday School department, and she helped him with that...and she had formed a women's ensemble that sang at various churches and events throughout the year. She.Was.Busy.
And larger than life.
She lit up a room everywhere she went. She didn't intend to ever be late, but she also didn't seem too concerned...as long as people were waiting on HER, and not the other way around. Her philosophy seemed to be "it'll start when I get there."
It was obvious from what was left behind that she had no intention of ever slowing down. She had plans. Her schedule was full.
But you know what matters? None of that.
So we slowly began to go through my Mom's things. Her clothes were fairly easy to part with. All of us kids live out-of-state, and so we didn't really have any memories of her in certain outfits...memories that would make it hard to part with her things. She had a TON of jewelry, tho. Mainly costume jewelry. If you ever saw my Mom, she was put-together from head to toe.
The things in her home were a different story for us. We didn't want to completely empty the house, because my Dad was still living there...but the presence of her touch in the home was undeniable. Every vase, picture, book, lamp, statue...was placed in her home, in that exact spot...BY HER.
And the house smelled like her. Every room, every closet, even the garage. From the moment you walked through the door, it smelled like her...smelled like home.
I wonder if it still does?
After a couple of years, my Dad began to date a nice lady and they made plans to marry. He put the house on the market to sell. We went through and cleaned out everything...every sign of her.
What we threw/gave away...clothing, shoes, purses, broken necklaces, old medications (down the toilet), cosmetics.
What I kept: eye-lashes, fingernails and deodorant.
Got your attention?
For as long as I can remember, my Mom wore false eye-lashes. She always said that she didn't have any lashes to speak of (She also said that she only had 3 strands of hair on her head, and the beautician just had to tease them up to make it look like she had hair). In one of her drawers, she had a new pair of eye-lashes. I don't know. I just couldn't throw them away.
The other thing I kept is one of my Mom's fingernails. I know. SICK, right? Weird, at the very least. It wasn't her ACTUAL fingernail, people. That would be even sicker and weirder. My Mom wore acrylic nails...every day. And they were always the same color...a deep orange-y red. Right after my Mom died and we had just started the cleaning out process...we found my Mom's fingernails everywhere: in her bathroom drawers, in the bottom of her purses...in her CAR. We even found some out on the street curb. I think those may have fallen out when the sanitation workers were emptying the garbage. We laughed about it, because they were literally everywhere. And I'm pretty sure those things are not biodegradable. A century from now, in a land-fill somewhere, you'll probably find some charred orange-y red acrylic nails.
Just a little forget-me-not from Betty Jane.
I wanted to save one of the acrylic nails for Holly, because she loved getting into my Mom's jewelry and make up and nail polish and all things girlie...and I wanted her to remember about my Mom's nails.
The deodorant? I don't know what to tell ya. That's even weird to ME. It was one of those small "travel-sized" products. I didn't USE it. I just wanted to have it. I can't explain why.
I will tell you that I didn't throw it away until I was packing up to move here...13 years after her death.
What I learned...things are just that: THINGS. They can be replaced, broken, fought over, given away...or put in the trash. You can love your things, and stress over buying them and where you want to place them in your home. Your things can have sentimental meaning to you. But after you are gone, someone else determines their value. They put their evaluation on something that may have had tremendous meaning to you, and they decide, based on their wants, needs or preferences...what to do with all of those items. Even if it's something as intimate as a prayer journal or Bible...someone else decides if it's worth saving, or if it's clutter that belongs in the trash.
It's sad, really.
I struggled with that...with my Mom's things. I wanted to keep everything just the way it was...or, at the very least, in boxes that I could open anytime I wanted...just to remember her. And our lives with her.
In the end, we threw a lot away...or gave things away. But the memories you keep in your heart, those are treasures that no one can take from you.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth...store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy..." Matthew 6:19-20