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September 20, 2012

Object Lessons

It has been difficult to find time to post, and frustrating, because I have great content from amazing writers to be posting. My apologies to them. Your work WILL appear. Delays and interruptions come in countless forms. The latest one for me occurred when I suddenly had the resources to clear out the storage unit that contained my sister's furniture and other large items. I had the muscle help, the truck, and the time. So, my remaining family members and I "took the will for the deed."

I still clearly remember the morning of the estate sale in which we sold the larger portion of our parents' belongings. My sister was the prime organizer and "chief" of the effort. Before people came in to buy, we looked at each other, tears in our eyes. Even not being materialist in nature, we couldn't deny the fact that we were dismantling the environment, the refuge, the sanctuary our parents had created with and for each other and for their children. How could we do this and not, on some level, feel that we were betraying those we loved most?

We each found compensation in keeping a few furniture pieces for our small homes. It was not, of course, about the objects, but we felt that by keeping them, we honored our parents' hard work, their personal aesthetic, and the memory of who and how they were on this earth. I would never have guessed that my sister would never have the time to move those items into her home and that my brother and I would be left to also dismantle the physical effects of her world.

It felt bad. Like a slow, punishing punch to the gut, an unrelenting pressure deep beneath my surface.

I know that it's good to clear the decks of stuff. I know also that we take nothing with us, that my sister has no need of any of these remainders, that I, too, one day will no longer be here, clearing out storage units, re-organizing my manuscripts and photographs so that whoever comes behind me won't be left with an unmanageable, time-consuming task to dispose of them. If I know this, why--why--do I feel as though this latest clearing out has left me immersed in sadness?

How is it that knowledge and feeling can be so far apart in the same mind, in the same heart? 

The estate agent who is helping us sell the remaining pieces told me that he believes people go through five stages of letting go of a loved one's possessions... reminding me of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's five stages of grief. The last stage he described was "relief." Oh, how I hope he is right, and right all the time, not just some of the time.  How I look forward to the relief of that relief.

In the meantime, I turn, once again, to gratitude. I remain grateful for having known and been known, for having loved and been loved by some very special people, ones I was only too glad to call "family" and others I have been only too glad to call "friends."

When I feel flooded by "saditude," the best medicine I have found is gratitude. A little humor doesn't hurt, either. Shortly after we finished clearing out the storage unit, a large SUV drove past me. Its windows on one side were painted. In the driver's window a peace symbol, in the window behind it, a big pink heart, and in the back window the Greek letters for Chi Omega. "Peace, Love, Chi Omega." My sister loved her Chi Omega sorority, her other "sisters." The timing of the signs I see that include Chi Omega are too specific and too "on-time" not to be messages.  "Peace and Love, Sister," my sister was surely saying to me. Peace and Love.

Even an empty storage unit can be full of these: peace, love, sisterhood. Amen.

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