How is it possible to have so many things, so many memories in a small, one bedroom apartment? How is it possible to have brought a collection spanning nearly 70 years to this final waypoint? And why?
Because. Combat. Battle. Memories. Treasures.
But it was never really about the things. My sister and I knew it. Mom knew it. It was the memory we attached to every precious thing. It was the nickels and dimes saved carefully, weekly, monthly to buy them. It was the strain of feeding six kids and a menagerie of creatures large and small. It was the minister’s salary. It was not having enough money to buy a cup of coffee at the cafe. It was hand-me-down clothes. It was baking bread and cooking porridge for five in chairs, three on a bench.
It was not the knife. It was not the ceramic figurine. It was not the tiny-diamond engagement ring afforded only after 25 years of marriage. It was the effort, the patience required to save and then buy. To scrimp. To save by cutting coupons. To shop for groceries at three different stores to save on three different sales.
It was not the plate or the coffee grinder. It was not the table or the candlestick.
Who sat at the table? Who laughed? Who argued? Who shared? Who did not? Who wept? Whose birthday songs were sung? Didn’t her own dad make those candlesticks?
And here I am, cleaning, packing, removing all evidence that Lois lived here. In less than a month someone else will breathe this air. Someone else will sit with their coffee in the warm morning light, looking out to the Okanagan hills, to the soon coming Spring. Someone else’s walker will roll right down the hall to the elevator, or left down the hall to the laundry.
I realize in this moment that I am neither packing nor cleaning. I am letting go. I am relinquishing my hold on that which was never mine. It was never my mom’s. At best, it was borrowed.
I am allowing the universe to do what the universe does. It renews. It refreshes. It lets go of the old to make room for the new. It invites us all to slip quietly into the stream of what was, the stream that makes possible all that will be.
Someone else’s memories will move in: their books, their candlesticks, their basket full of well loved clothes, a favorite straggle-thread sweater, a treasure-filled past collecting dust on the shelf. These remembrances are the ripples through the ages that will not be stilled, that will sing their silent songs long after we are done.
Many of these things will become thrift store thoughts.
But for those who are silent, who will bend an ear, for those who will listen to spirits long departed, these treasures will soon become deep, forgotten dreams. They will become flickers of those who have come and have gone, lately departed to realms unknown. They will be old. They will become new again, but not in the hands of Lois.