Sorting through the Odds & Ends of Mom’s Life

Ann H Gabhart Ann's Posts, One Writer's Journal

The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life. ~William Morris

Mom’s been gone for over a month now. For a while it’s felt like she’s still at the memory care facility and I need to go see about her. But that’s not so. She doesn’t need anybody to see about her now. She’s in a better place. Her smile is back. She’s laughing and glad to finally be “home” with her mother and dad. She would sometimes say when she had a moment of clarity before the dementia got worse that she was ready to go on except she didn’t want to leave us. Then at the end she no longer remembered us so perhaps that made it easier for her to leave. 

We’ve begun going through her things. So far we’ve just scratched a little of the surface, but already we’re seeing things with no real value except that they meant something to Mom. All the odds and ends of a life well lived. There’s the newspaper article with my picture when one of my earlier books was published. Then we find a certificate she received for work with the Homemakers. We go through piles of bird magazines because she did love her birds. We find enough greeting cards and stationery to fill a shopping bag. I know she intended to send each and every card to her many friends. The old Scrabble game that dates back to our childhood is in a shirt box. She saved it even though someone gave her one of the deluxe game boards that swiveled and had little pockets for the tiles. We found the dictionary so well used as she worked her crossword puzzles that it was falling apart. 

Mama’s memory is soaked into everything we pick up. We find Dad’s jacket with his horseshoe champion patch sewn on it. And there in the back of a closet are his clay court croquet mallets. We take garbage bags full of things to Goodwill and put other garbage bags in the trash. But we also have piles we keep for ourselves. Things we can’t seem to part with. I think we’re all going to have to build on a storage room. And we haven’t even started on the real memory drawers. 

But it has to be done and I’m fortunate to have two sisters to work through the memories with me. What can we save? What will we do with this? Do you want it? Where will we put it? How can we part with it? The questions echo between us.

Mom has keepsakes from her family and from Dad’s family too. And now we are going to have keepsakes too. But the best keepsake is all the memories of times with her. We will part with what we have to with sadness, but we’ll never part with the memory of her love.  

Have you had to sort through a loved one’s things? What was the hardest part of that for you?