There's a practical side to grieving that happens almost unexpectedly. Like on Saturday afternoon when we met at the house to clean up. I had no idea what that meant, just showed up with Bob ready for whatever needed doing. I'm a fairly practical person, task orientated, I thought.
We're cleaning out the kitchen, she said, so I proceeded to open up the pantry and the fridge and was soon faced with choices I didn't expect. The simply act of deciding what was to be kept and what was to be thrown away made my stomach turn over. We did a bit of chatting as we worked, creating little piles of things on the counter top, a few items worth saving that we might use… canned goods, pre-packaged foods… but my stomach just wasn't cooperating as she asked, what about this, would you use this? I have to admit I wanted to toss the whole lot, but then my practical/thrifty side took over for a little while and I placed a few things in a box to take home later. As did she.
The fridge was easier as the perishables were destined for the garbage. But again, the act of emptying and throwing away was not easy. There was this strange feeling of doing something I shouldn't have been doing, of somehow having less than enough respect for Art, and his intimate life at home (even though he hadn't lived there since December when he moved into hospice).
The men were busy with papers, sorting, discussing, throwing away, collecting. They were talking through it all… admirable, I think. When the kitchen work was done I sat on the bed with them, didn't really know what else to do. I kept looking around for signs of his life, but the room was strangely barren, again probably due to the fact that he hadn't been living in the house for a long time.
My final task was something I decided to do without being asked… I couldn't imagine someone else taking down the photos from his kitchen wall and maybe throwing them away. I organized them into piles, smiling at the pictures of our kids, and the other little mementos that were pinned up there… like the brightly coloured plastic star made by our daughter, and a hand written note wishing him well from another child. Children loved him. He paid attention to them and gave them candy and oreos and pop.
Then we opened a bottle of wine, the guys lit cigars, and we sat on his patio… maybe for the very last time with music from his ipod filling in the silences. Again that feeling of emptiness… strangeness… tightness in my chest, and searching for words. We raised our glasses to Art… talked about life, the days since his funeral, feelings, and then we headed for home.
I remember when my Grandpa died that my mother had to sell the contents of his home, and split the proceeds with her state-side and only brother. She did this alone. I can't remember why nobody else came alongside her in this. She advertised in the paper, held a garage sale, then set up and sold whatever she could and donated the rest to charity. I can't imagine how she did that… watching strangers drive away with the things of my grandpa's life? Or, did practicality just set in and allow her to do the difficult and painful?
In the words of my dear husband, this process of emptying homes and hearts just sucks.
18 hours ago