After my wife died, I had the urge to throw away all her belongings. I gave her nice clothes to someone who would cherish them, or at least wear them. I binned her lockdown wardrobe of cheap hoodies and baggy tracksuit bottoms she never even got a chance to wear.
Cleared out her drawers and bedside lockers. Cosmetics and lotions, scrunchies and sanitary napkins were chucked. I had a lot of shampoo. I got a hair iron. I gave her the wig she got in case the chemo caused her hair to fall out. She never wore it, so she got a new home and a new head.
It was nice to see the other side of the palliative care wreckage. A yellow sharps box with a biohazard symbol full of needles piercing her skin, saline, wipes and bandages. On a short walk in December there was a wheelchair we had used once before she caught a cold and asked to go home. The Master let it go.
When her belongings were gone, I felt a strange compulsion. I was bitten by a bug that throws things away. I’ve always tended to hoard a bit, but now I feel like I need to bin everything that isn’t identified or needed.
I reconfigured homes for motherless families. I walked out of the bedroom we shared and gave it to the twins. I ditched the IKEA unit designed to create a Scandinavian order out of furniture, beds, mirrors, chests of drawers, and jumbled shoes. Maybe I was just removing what I didn’t want. Maybe it was the sadness of Marie Kondo. do not know.
I read somewhere that you should wait at least a year before throwing away the dead person’s belongings. “Now you tell me,” I thought for a second. But no, I’d rather not have such a thing. Probably lighter.
There are many things I have to go through to decide whether to continue or quit. I keep all her records in a neat plastic folder. They all have labels like ‘Important stuff’, ‘Car’, ‘Home’ and ‘Work’. God, she was organized. I’ll have to go through all of this and refile everything in my own unorganized way.
Next to these folders are her working folders. she was an architect. Here is her resume, references, awards, degrees and professional certifications. Somewhere there’s a portfolio of work, a catalog of buildings people walk through, and if she puts a little stamp on them, they’ll never know. I feel like she’s denying her professional persona by throwing everything away.
But there are others that I keep and I don’t know why. I have a bag of strong painkillers, anti-nausea, etc. and I don’t know why I still have it. Think Kate is back and needs a restock? Want to grow? dope chicOwn opium addiction? I do not think so. However, I still haven’t thrown it all away.
After our twins were born, there are two car seats that she sweated and researched endlessly.After we got tired of discussing Isofix fittings and reversible settings, we fought over them.
I remember it snapping, “Buy me a fucking child seat.” They are redundant, but I still have them. I was an impatient dick about buying them, so I’d probably be distrustful of throwing them away.
“Now I have a ceramic bear and the responsibility it represents.
Then there’s the one that I always keep. I paint on canvas and silk. She had a unique aesthetic, like a swirling dream. I have some pottery.
She wanted to set up a studio in our backyard, buy a kiln, and build something out of clay. However, she made two of her works. A strange woman with a bird on her head and a ceramic bear with a child on her back. Bears are beautiful things. It is bulky and heavy with a fat bovine rump. And it has a child on its back. A brave boy riding a bear.
“This is for you,” she said with a sense of ritual as she handed it to me. She had been her mother bear until then. A protective, cuddly person who can rub his nose, whisper, and chuckle. She was walking past that cloak.
So now I have the bear and the responsibility it represents. It was scary at first. But now I’ve gotten used to being friendly and eye-catching.
At some point, remove the car seats and opiates, go through the folders, and take the rest of the clothes to the clothes bank. They still retain part of her spirit – especially the bear, which was her gift. Something that cannot be thrown away.
To support the quality palliative care services provided by St. Francis Hospice, Raheny, Blanchardstown, visit sfh.ie/donate.