If I take an inventory of all of Jeff's things that I have clung to, stored for safe keeping or discarded since he died, I realize that to an outsider, these items would seem like random detritus. Debris. Maybe even junk.
I have managed to let go of many of his 'collections'. The plastic Stanley Cups he collected from some fastfood restaurant. A couple of his hats. A few nicknacks.
But there are items that I look at and wonder at the strange eccentricity of my sentimentality.
I keep a diaper wipe box with the last pile of hair that I will ever find lining the bottom of the bathtub. I managed to throw out the old phonebook, but had to keep the cover with the phone number for the hydro company scratched in his handwriting. An old photo of him holding a massive sturgeon and smiling hangs on the wall at the foot of my bed. His last load of dirty laundry is stored, still soiled, in a vacuum-packed bag under our bed. And I still cannot bring myself to recycle the newspaper dated for the day before his death - the day before the world shift dramatically and suddenly.
I know I keep the hair because it seems the last bit of his DNA, the last pieces of his body...it also reminds me of what a truly astonishingly hairy person he was.
The phonebook cover reveals his beautiful handwriting and brings some amount of comfort knowing that he did the everyday odd jobs of calling about utility bills, etc. That he was 'with' me. A team.
The photo brings me to him. His laugh. His love of the ocean. His ability to find wonder and joy even in the midst of pain and hardship. His strength.
His last load of laundry smells like him. When I catch a whiff of 'him', I nearly buckle now. I become so completely filled with grief and longing. But the thought of never being able to smell him again is even worse...so I vacuum packed it.
And the newspaper, it just makes me wonder at how simple life was before. How life was so taken for granted and how good I had it. It is a reminder to try to not complain as much. To not worry so much. To not 'take score' as much.
Because no matter how we think we can control our lives, we can't and we are humbled in an instant. And then we are sorting through our lives and realizing that the small things, like bottle cap collections don't matter one iota. It's who we are and what we are to others, that make this 'living' all worth the too short time we get with each other.