This past weekend my dad had a yard sale. I stopped by just after it started to drop off some things we wanted to sell. As I was perusing the piles of things that were set out I noticed a very familiar piece of pink lace hanging over the side of a cardboard box. My heart sank and I ran over and pulled out a vintage lace dress that my mom had bought decades ago to add to her awesome costume collection. I immediately yanked it out and rummaged frantically through the box for other possessions that were hers. I had to rescue them. All of them.
For those that don't know; my mom died unexpectedly when I was 13. I mourned in a mostly healthy fashion and grew up well in spite of the circumstances. I am often touted for my resilience or ability to overcome tough circumstances. "You're a strong one" they say.
And most of the time I would agree. While that hole in my heart will never truly be gone I've managed to use those tough times as a propellent to do good in the world. I try hard to not see myself as a victim. "You're right," I'd reply. "I am a strong one."
But then the sight of one single dress shoved in one single box lying on the pavement sends me into a panicked frenzy.
I know someone whose wife passed away and for years he didn't clean out her closet. The thought of getting rid of her clothes was akin to getting rid of her and he couldn't bear to get rid of her. If her clothes were still around he wouldn't have to face the fact that she wasn't. And I felt sad for him- I really did.
Meanwhile my own mother's clothes were packed away safely in the garage. I was able to mostly move on because I didn't have to see them hanging in the closet every day, but I also didn't have to fully let them go.
The pain has certainly eased up since then. It's been over ten years, for Christ's sake. But there's something new that is taking its place... this fear, this anxiety, that I'm going to forget her completely. I can no longer remember the sound of her laugh. I had completely forgotten about her plum leather driving gloves until I saw them lying in that yard sale box. And I guess, I don't know, I guess it feels like if I can save all of her possessions then I will be able to preserve those memories. I won't have to think about them every day, but on days when it seems like her face is fading away I can go out to the garage and open up that box and seep in some memories of her, even if it's just for a couple of minutes.
But that's not how it works. Even if I gathered up every possession she ever owned it still wouldn't bring her back. And it's true- memories do fade- but not all of them. I'll never forget lying in the dark listening to her tell me stories about "star girl." I'll always remember her dressing up in an Elizabethan gown with a pillow shoved under it and going out on Halloween as "Romeo and Juliet with a happy ending." That dress is long gone, but that memory remains.
So on Saturday morning after a