We all arrive at that time after our loved one dies where we look around and see what remains. What remains of a person who filled our lives in one way or another or so completely that we look at their physical belongings and are struck with disbelief that this is it. The sum of their existence.
My husband and I specialized in not being attached to external things. In 2009 we sold our home in Jersey and most of our belongings. A few special things we put in storage while we figured out what direction our lives would take us. And then we decided to stay on the road, adventuring, and we donated more and more of what was in storage.
After Chuck died, I spent a day going through that storage unit. I held his clothes against my heart, inhaling, striving to find some remaining scent of the man who impacted my life so hugely. His scent was gone, of course, and, one by one, I placed his clothes in a bag for donation. Piece by piece, memory by memory. It wasn't easy, but with each article I thought well, if he were here, he'd want me to donate these rather than keep them in a storage unit. So I took a deep breath and gave them away.
I kept a few things; a couple shirts and pairs of pants I really loved seeing him wear. Three of his ball caps. His military uniforms, both dress Blues and BDU's.
Mostly, what remains of his clothes travel with me. Those shirts and pants, the jacket from his BDU's (he looked so hot in those!). His flag, his dog tags, his cremains. His wallet. The mustache comb he used almost absent-mindedly at times.
I don't want external reminders much, because they put my focus outside of me, where I can't find him. I want to hold him close in my heart and feel him there. Deep in my soul, in the marrow of my bones, and external stuff is a distraction for me, using energy I don't have.
You know what is hardest to rid myself of? Things I had from our final time together. Recently my tooth brush wore out. I'd kept it unused for a while after he died but finally used it and now its worn out and I need to toss it. And I'm having the damndest time doing that. What I had when we were together, when our lives were filled with a future....those things require deep breathing through the pain and the desolation. A shampoo bottle from our commonly used shampoo. Simple things that were of every day use and little noticed, until now.
I miss Chuck so very much. I miss seeing him comb his mustache. I miss seeing him striding towards me with a smile on his face. I miss his wink at me from across the room. I miss his arms around me as we slow-danced. I miss his strong shoulders that supported me in hard times and good. I miss his encouragement of me to live my best. I miss his magic in my life.
Things? No, they don't matter much, because they are ultimately temporary. Instead I want to remember all the things about him that I miss, and hold them close and, in doing so, feel him so much and so deeply that he becomes me and I become him. I want to feel him so strongly in my heart and soul that it will be as if he is still wrapping his arms around me. Wrapping the loneliness from me. Exorcising the grief and pain from me until I become nothing but the love he had for me and I, for him.
Sheer pure love. I seek to become that and, in doing so, find again the very essence of what is stronger than death can ever be, what Chuck and I shared so vividly in life, fueling me in this life that I must create without his physical presence.
Just sheer love.