Together, my sister and I have been regularly going through and cleaning out, my parent’s house and it’s 62 years of belongings. Doing it together has been a huge blessing. Together we have shared memories, laughed at long forgotten stories and helped each other to let go.
But today was a hard day. The letting go of furniture, glassware and other objects has been a bit easier than I anticipated. But the paper….the piles and piles of papers…that is where my heart has faltered.
Both of my parents kept scads of paper memories. And I can’t let them go without looking at each one. Twice. (I’m not kidding.) The process is grueling and painstaking. Each time I see their handwriting, I am reconnected to them. Each accolade they’ve received makes me proud of them. It hurts to let it go. I don’t want to forget and I fear that without the paper reminders it will all slip away.
Of course, I know this is not entirely true. I know I don’t need to remember every detail. But I want to. I want to wrap my arms around it all, assimilate it into my heart and mind and never let it go.
But I do let it go. At least most of it. However, I have found that letting go of something physically, does not mean you are released from it. At least not right away.
My mother has made it easier. She has entrusted her home and all of her belongings to my sister and I. She has told us to do what we want with it. Most of it no longer holds her heart. I’m grateful for the release she has gifted us with. Grateful that she knows our hearts will honor hers.
But it’s my Dad’s stuff that had me struggling today. He did not release me as my mother has. And knowing how important his papers were to him, makes them take on importance to me. Perhaps he didn’t even remember he still had some of them. Perhaps he never expected me to struggle over it like I do. No doubt, if he had thought of it before he died, he would have cleaned the whole place out himself. Yet he did not, so I must find a way to release myself.
Figuring out what matters, what must be saved, even if only for my heart’s sake, is a challenging task. Caring for my parents has been a privilege I have always welcomed, even in it’s most challenging moments. But caring for them has always included THEM. But without them in it, their home that was once alive and full of love, is slowly becoming an empty shell. A museum of memories. I’m learning that memories, even warm and happy ones, can be crippling. It feels strange to long for what was, while simultaneously discarding what is left of it.
Today was a hard day. But not a terrible one. The tears that welled up, helped to clear my vision. I am reminded that loving hard means letting go will also be hard. It’s the cost of loving. My Dad doesn’t care about the stuff he left behind. And I need very little of that stuff to remember him.
Today was a hard day. But it ends with me finding the release I was seeking. And that, makes a hard day, worthwhile.