A few bags and a suitcase

Mum and I went to her house last week to start sorting through my father’s belongings. I’ve been looking forward to this for years – throwing away all his old, stinky clothes, and the few other possessions he had. I thought it would be cathartic – another nail in his coffin, so to speak, and another way to exile him from my life. It was, although sadly the catharsis was lessened because my mother had already thrown away the worst of his sh*t when he went into the nursing home.

Thanks to the Wonder Therapist I was prepared for this to also be triggering. Mostly it wasn’t, although there were a couple of things that threw me for a minute – things like his old bucket hats (which reminded me of his foul moods), the smell of his wardrobe (and of him) and some skanky old toiletries, like shaving gear. Thankfully the worst of the triggers – his dirty, stinky fishing gear – had already gone, so I didn’t need to deal with that.

Strangely I kept a couple of things. Yea, I know, you’re thinking I’m crazy, right? It wasn’t anything triggering. Nothing that really even reminds me of him, just things I like. A pale blue shirt I bought in France, a couple of old cravats I never saw him wear (they’re in beautiful old vintage fabrics), and an old hair brush I’m not sure he never used (also vintage, with a fleur-de-lis pattern on the handle).

This whole process of sorting through his cr*p affected me more than I thought it would. Throwing away his eye glasses, realising he would never need them again, made me a bit sad – not for my father, but for what’s left of a person’s life in the end: a few garbage bags and a suitcase filled with old clothes to go to charity. I don’t know why I find this sad, but I do. Somehow it seems that 91 years of life – nearly 92 – should amount to more than that. The Wonder Therapist says it’s not uncommon to start thinking about this – about the meaning of life, our legacy, and what it all means. (F***ed if I know, that’s for sure.)

It’s amazing how exhausting this whole process was – even though I’m not saddened in the usual way, I’m still exhausted.


7 thoughts on “A few bags and a suitcase

  1. I don’t think it’s the least bit weird that you kept a few things. It’s a way to take ownership in a way that’s acceptable. It’s very telling that you took back something you had given him in the first place — the shirt. And the ties, which clearly never seemed to belong to him, but which were beautiful things sort of held captive by him and unappreciated during his life. It seems to me you took memory-facets of yourself, not of him, and brought them back to their proper home with you.

  2. Hi Kerro,

    I agree with David.

    Death is exhausting for a family, even if it isn’t someone who deserved love. I think you found it sad because unlike him, you are a human being and are capable of empathy and compassion.

    Good and healing thoughts to you.


  3. It shows how being a positive person can leave a better legacy than possessions. You’re making different decisions about how to live your life than your father did. That will show. That is your legacy, the good stuff that people will remember you for.

    You selected possessions which weren’t associated with him in any way… more of a divorce from his memory, than anything.

    Take gentle care of yourself,

  4. @ David, I like what you said. I like the idea that these things never seemed to belong to my father – they didn’t; they were far too nice. If they did ever belong to him, it was never a “him” I knew, if that makes sense. This notion of a man I didn’t know has come up a few times since he died – messages from family friends about his kindness and generosity, and his good sense of humour. Things I never saw. I don’t feel sad about that, or perhaps I do – sad that he could, like many abusers, be a kind-hearted, pillar of the community type with everyone but his family.

    @ Kate, that compassion thing is starting to wear me down. I’ve been wondering how he died – was he alone? was he conscious? did he say anything? – not because it’s him, just because it seems sad that at the end of a life no one cared. The Wonder Therapist says this is still grief, even if I’m not grieving the person who died.

    @ Castorgirl, thank you – I wonder, though, is that really a legacy? Some good thoughts and memories that will be forgotten when that next person dies? Rationally I know you’re right, it’s just stuff I’ve been questioning. The WT says this is all part of grief – questioning the meaning of life, what it’s all about, the point of everything. Grief, even if in the absence of a person. Weird.

  5. Dear Kerro,

    Yes compassion and grief are exhausting. However you are feeling these things now and not locking them away for decades, that is huge. One of the nicests things about grief is that if you are feeling it after a loss, grief has a lifespan and a time frame. You feel it, work on it, and then you are able to move on from there.

    Good and healing thoughts to you.


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