Last week I told you that I was purging my home and attic and getting things organized.
What I didn't tell you .... was how deeply I was purging.
You can see that there's a lot of "stuff" in my garage, but you most likely can't make anything out (due to my fabulous skills as a photographer).
But there's something there .... on the right side, close to the middle.
Something that is symbolic of how deep this purge is .....
Jim's hiking boots. (and no, the man didn't hike much, as you can probably tell by the years-old boots that still look new.)
It's not the boots themselves that are the topic.
It's all of his stuff.
Mostly .... everything.
At almost 3 1/2 years out .... I'm down to the last things to purge.
And I am hugely surprised .... by how it went.
Just a month or so after Jim died, I boxed up all of his clothes and put them away.
I hung all of his suits in the back of the coat closet, where I wouldn't see them.
See ........ that was key.
I couldn't see his stuff.
The pain that sight caused was too much for me to handle.
Thus, after only one week .... I cleared all of his "stuff" out of our bathroom. Off of the counters.
Yes, even his toothbrush.
And his cologne.
I have yet to meet anyone who's done it this early, so sometimes, in the beginning, I felt I had to defend my decision. (I don't any longer.)
The pain of walking into that bathroom every day ..... several times a day, and seeing his toothbrush .... sitting in the cup by his sink, right where he left it ..... was like a knife in my heart.
Every single time.
That toothbrush was not only a painful reminder of Jim's absence, it also felt as if I was being mocked by the universe .... as if it was saying to me, "Hey! Look at his toothbrush! Guess what? He's NEVER coming back!"
And so I removed it.
His closet was the same thing .... only a million times worse.
If I opened the door, which I sometimes felt myself being drawn to do ..... I just crumbled onto the floor and cried.
I couldn't take the sight of all of his clothes in there.
And more .... I couldn't take the scent of him in there.
But .... as I said .... sometimes it seemed I had no power to avoid opening the door.
And so .... I had to clean it out.
And then put other things in there.
So it wouldn't be "his" anymore.
As the days turned into weeks, months and then years .... I would notice that one of Jim's jackets was being worn by shoulders that were not quite as wide.
His cowboy boots were worn on teenage boy feet .... feet that were not as long as Jim's, but being worn the same.
I've noticed a couple of his hats being worn.
And a couple of his ties.
I think I've just mostly watched this quietly .... not saying anything to the Sons, but noticing.
And being ok with it.
And then, the urge to purge hit.
And so the boys cleaned out the attic, bringing all of Jim's stuff down.
And they looked through those things.
I have no idea what was saved.
I thought that was it.
I thought that part was done.
Until I hit the coat closet last week.
The last thing I have purged.
I brought his suits out and then remembered that there were several huge boxes in the back of the closet.
I had forgotten.
I brought all of the boxes and and then sat down on the floor among them.
I opened one box at a time.
Those boxes held all of Jim's more personal clothing.
His t-shirts, jeans, socks, shorts, caps, etc.
I had indeed .... forgotten.
I opened up one box at a time and braced myself for the meltdown.
But .... it didn't come.
The waves didn't hit.
There was a slight amount of undertow going on .... but nothing so big that it took me down.
I went through every single item in every single box.
I chose some items to keep for myself.
I set some things aside to give to the Sons.
I picked each piece up, held it, remembered him wearing that item .... and smiled at the memories.
I brought many of them up to my face, breathing in deeply .... to see if they still had his scent.
My heart was beating pretty quickly .... yet I never lost it.
I just .... remembered.
In a good way.
And I was .... stunned.
In a good way.
I've cried since then from missing him, so I know those moments (hours) were no indication of my sudden "healing" of grief (I don't believe that's really possible).
But I think it is indicative of how much stronger I've become.
Of how much easier it is for me to carry my grief, without being brought down by it.
Because .... really?!
Who would've thought that I would one day be able to do actually go through my husband's things ....
my dead husband's things .... and not have dark, painful thoughts and millions of tears blinding my vision, making the task impossible to complete.
And I didn't drown.
I just ........ remembered.
In a good way.