Hello/Goodbye August 21, 2015

an ordinary death It’s Friday and one of my favorite blogs challenges its readers to consider the “hello/goodbye” paradigm on Fridays as a way to reflect on the week before and the time coming in front of us.

So, today I began and ended the process of saying “Goodbye” to the thousands of pages of my mother’s letters that she left upon her death. You can read more about the story here. My sister joined me. We read letters, laughed, cried and tossed. And tossed. And tossed.

As we had worked through my mother’s dying process and in the months afterward in 2010, we had to toss or sell 99% of her papers and possessions. Several grandchildren have a piece of her furniture or some other memento. My sister and I each have a few items, but most had to go then. The rest went out today except for one small stack of papers I will scan in and keep for the sake of remembering this unusual woman who was my mother.

Upon our inevitable deaths, someone, or several someones, will have to say “goodbye” to all our stuff as well.. Since I know this so well, I’ve spent a lot of time culling things in the last few years. I didn’t just want to re-arrange them in nice and neat storage boxes or, God-forbid, in some sort of rented storage building. I want to leave behind only those things which really matter to me, which I love and use and which give me joy.

But as are many in my profession as writer, and in my former profession as pastor, books become my biggest challenge. Even as I carefully cull clothes and other stuff, I buy books.

So today, I’ve also said “hello” to a book on finding the world behind my head, as distractions tend to worm their way in and silence becomes more and more costly. I’m taking this on a trip to read while on the airplane, a way to get my mind off the airplane noise and discomfort and find inner peace.

One thing I know for sure: inner peace doesn’t come from stuff. And I am boxes lighter with “stuff” now than I was when this morning started.

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  • I look forward to your observations. Perhaps because you happen to touch on my life, or perhaps it’s because I agree with your opinions.
    This year I have embarked upon what our pioneer mothers used to call making the house “dying clean,” separating the wheat from the chaff so that whoever has to do the final sort will not think less of me.

    • I love the idea of “dying clean.” The nightmare of cleaning out after each of my parents’ deaths will not soon leave my memory.

      • When we cleared out my mother’s things, we tried to be respectful of her wishes, as we remembered them from conversations.

        Some of the items were known to all of us, such as the collection of teacups and saucers accumulated on her travels. They were to be distributed among her granddaughters. She had not taped names on them, so we made our best guess.

        We recognized things like a favorite pin or string of pearls or scarf that she wore to church. We are still scanning, identifying and sharing her photographs, which are a priceless and irreplaceable collection.

        One fine day we were sorting and realized we actually did nor recognize many of the items.

        Brainstorm: Mom walked out every day, and her regular route took her by the City Mission store. Then it dawned on us that many things might have significance to some unknown family, but not to ours. The items had been donated to the store.

        My mother had the fun of picking up something for almost nothing and making a contribution to the organization at the same time. What could have been a nicer combination for a lifelong Methodist lady?

        • What a great memory of what sounds like a very special woman! Thank you for sharing it.

      • Cheryl Anthony Johnston

        I totally understand, Christy, about culling out… My desire is to have more time to do so. My sister, brother, and I were fortunate that Mom & Dad moved from their house into a small retirement apartment before either one of them died. The problem was, however, was that at the time we were all involved in estate sale of the ‘big items’, no one wanted to toss photos or papers so those all came to our house because Fred & I were the only ones who had an extra room…! Prior even to moving back to Dallas, we had boxes of papers and photos from Fred’s parents! Six months ago we sold our house, moved into a 1-bedroom apartment – and three storage units(!!!!). How crazy is that?!? We are buying two acres of our son & daughter-in-love’s twenty-seven acres in Sherman. We will build a smaller house to retire there. When selling our house I threw out a lot, but Fred kept boxing everything, saying he’d have more time to go through it after we retire. I want more time to ‘play’ in the future than to continue to go through the past stuff, but day by day “dying clean” will at least not leave so much for our son and daughter to sort. I want time to actually read a lot of my daddy’s Sunday School lessons too. OH MY, I didn’t mean to write so much!

        • Your father was such a fabulous teacher–I can understand why you’d want to read those. But I will tell you I am now genuinely relieved to have those papers gone. A few pangs, of course, but I need to live my life in the present, not in the past. The past certainly informs it, but it must not direct it. And three storage units!!! To me, that would be the ultimate nightmare, I admit it. Oh my–what a job you have before you.

        • I’m just guessing, but on the off chance that some people are not genealogists, let me add that local and state libraries and historical societies would welcome any papers and photographs that add to the knowledge of our history.

          Sent from my iPhone


  • janieb99

    So beautiful. Thank you!

    Sent from my iPad