The Remnants of a Life

I recently wrote about my decision to move out of our family home and into a smaller apartment, better suited to my ‘single’ lifestyle.  It will be a month or two until I actually make the move, however this week I started packing away things I want to put in storage and sorting out un-needed items to donate to charity or just throw in the trash. 

It’s kind of scary how much ‘stuff’ I’ve accumulated.  Not quite on the level of those people you see on the Hoarders TV shows, but hey, it’s a slippery slope!  The problem with being just one human living in a four-bedroom house, is there are literally cupboards and even whole rooms you can fill with junk and then ignore. 

So the notion of pulling every item out and assessing its worth has been very overwhelming.  Luckily, my wonderful parents, who are always there to lend a hand before I can even ask them for help, arrived to help me start the mammoth task.  In one afternoon we scraped the surface and as good as it felt to make a start, there is still a long way to go.

It was cathartic to shed the weight of possessions I didn’t need or use anymore.  Once I started to see progress, it began to feel almost addictive. With every bag or box that packed away or threw in the rubbish bin, I felt lighter. I was on a roll… until I got to a cupboard of Dan’s office (that is now my office) containing some of his old paperwork, tax returns and computer equipment.

As I sat on the floor, surrounded by the remnants of a life that he departed from so suddenly, the sadness hit me like a tidal wave. 

I expected it, of course.  This process was always going to be emotional and I’m sure there are more tough days to come, like the moment I hand over my keys and close our front door for the last time.  Even typing that makes me well up.  But still, I feel ready. 

I wasn’t expecting to feel angry at him, when packing up his things.  I have had my share of angry days and don’t often go there anymore. However there it was, that moment of frustration that I was here, tying up his loose ends.  Anger that his disease robbed me of my life with him.  Disbelief that my amazing husband could succumb to such darkness so suddenly and right under my nose. 

How did I get here?  Why did he have to go?  And what the hell am I going to do with his four old laptops (and who needs four lap tops anyway!?). 

How could he have left this mess for me to clean up?  Why didn’t he talk to me about his disease? WTF happened?!

All the questions that I rarely ask myself these days were back in an instant.  Thankfully just as quickly as they popped in to my head, the answers soon followed. 

He was sick.  He wasn’t in control.  He didn’t know.  He couldn’t ask for help at that point, the disease was too far along. 

It wasn’t ‘him’.  He didn’t leave.  He was taken by depression.  


Showing 7 reactions

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  • Penny Sharman
    commented 2016-04-12 10:44:19 -0700
    Purging “stuff” can be so emotional and freeing at the same time. I remember crying as I threw some of my husband’s stuff in the garbage and telling myself, “It’s just stuff Penny. You’re not throwing Gary away” I started purging paperwork and eventually sent off 4 bankers boxes of papers (75 pounds) to be shredded. My most emotional moment was when I came across a box of my husband’s college notes – pages and pages filled with his handwriting and of absolute use to no-one. I think I had my most intense meltdown when I decided it needed to be tossed. At the end of the day, my house is a lot more organized now and most of the times clutter free and I think Gary would have been pleased. It’s all stuff we talked about getting rid of and never did. As new items appear in my house, I look at them and ask is this something I want, is this something my kids would want after I’m gone and if the answer is no, then its tossed. I have the same attitude when I go shopping now. Very freeing and a side of me that is part of the new me. I guess there’s got to some upsides to being a member of this darn widows club right? Good luck in your move Rebecca.
  • Janice Boltseridge
    commented 2016-04-11 12:39:05 -0700
    This is such a sensitive area for us, isn’t it? I moved two years ago, which was two years out from my husband’s death, from our family ranch with a huge yard where we planted every flower and tree that grew. I moved to a townhouse condominium where I own 1/34th of the yard. I can’t plant a tree if I wanted to. I miss our home every day. It’s another loss in the parade of many. I don’t think it was a “bad” move, it probably was the right one to make, but it hurts being away from the space where Michael breathed and walked.
  • Dawn Kuebler
    commented 2016-04-09 15:44:28 -0700
    I feel the weight of possessions too especially as I’ve considered moving from our home of 10 years with our son. It is as if the heavy weight of grief has weighed me down so much that I want to feel “light” again in all kinds of ways. My son feels it too. I dread facing his things, our things, dream things, etc.—the pain of it all over again.
  • Rebecca Collins
    commented 2016-04-09 15:15:34 -0700
    Thanks Stephanie, it took me a long time to feel ready and I’ve had a couple of false starts (looking at houses, talking to real estate agent and then freaking out and running back into my cave!). It feels right this time though, I feel so ready and really excited about this next step. Good luck with your negotiations
  • Rebecca Collins
    commented 2016-04-09 15:13:53 -0700
    Wow Cathy, 28 years of accumulated ‘stuff’… I am only dealing with 3 years’ worth. It must have been a huge mission. Thanks for your encouragement, and yes I would be lost with out my family and friends!
  • Stephanie Vendrell
    commented 2016-04-09 14:34:14 -0700
    This resonates since I am starting negotiations to keep my house…or soon, I will be doing this too. 14 years of stuff…and all the memories, those we shared here, and those he missed…congratulations on the big decision to move, but it is not easy. Not easy at all.
  • Cathy
    commented 2016-04-09 12:53:17 -0700
    Rebecca, I too had a 4 bedroom house, lots of closets which I loved when living there, nine upstairs. Took me a couple years to go through it, after 28 years living there. And yes, I understand the laptops, my husband had 7 old computers in the basement! Bit by bit I got through it all, you will too. So nice that your parents are able to help, what would we do without family and friends?