A friend once told me, “Your stuff is how your kids know they’re in the right house.” I thought that was a pretty great perspective. Stuff has a purpose, and should have a place. It means something. It tells a story.
One of my responsibilities during this season has been the sorting and organizing of stuff, those things my Mother-in-Law treasured and that I believe she would not want lost or forgotten. She did not have the opportunity to do this job herself, and though we did not share a very intimate relationship, I know her. I remember how much she loved certain things, and I can read those secret signs she left behind her.
The care with which she did everything is undeniable—I always admired her attention to detail. Oh, I was plenty intimidated by her perfection, but most of all she inspired me. Walking through her home, without her here to welcome us, was discomforting. Yet, her aesthetic is everywhere. She is expressing herself through everything that fills this house. Not a single knickknack would have just been put on a shelf. Everything was placed where she thought it would create an impression. Her choices are so telling. This note the Saxophone Player wrote so long ago (pictured above), is neatly framed and prominently featured where every guest will see it. When I see it, I think of the joy her saxophone playing son still brings her. I am glad she will get to see him again tomorrow. I am even gladder I get to see him in just two short hours.
It pains my heart to know her hands will never touch these things again, but I hope I am paying tribute to her in how I am trying to care for them. Sifting through boxes of odds and ends, I find a memento from a college dance. In a box in the garage, marked “Donate,” I find a baby picture of my Father-in-Law. In her closet, his high school diploma peaks out from behind a shoe box. Evidence of the disease that torments her, and a reminder I am doing the right thing. Love is patient. It takes time to sort through every scrap of paper, finding the postcard to her granddaughter that never got sent – a love note that might have been lost.
As challenging as it has been to be here, leaving may end up being the most difficult thing of all. I am so grateful to have gotten to be a part of caring for my Mother-in-Law, and helping preserve her treasures. I hope I have honored her and helped extend her touch. I look forward to going to Hannah’s home one day and finding something that tells of this remarkable woman.