Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Thing About Stuff

It's been a relatively uneventful week around here. Was actually home for the first weekend in about a month and spent the evenings of it hanging out with many of my girlfriends. Got most of my "core support" crew together for an informal celebration dinner on Thursday. Good food, great conversation and a wonderful reason to bring everyone together. I am visiting family this week and taking my first turn at daylong babysitting duty for the nephew.

Spent much of yesterday helping my mother out with a couple of projects around her house. One of which was going through some of my grandmother's things. Not often an easy task... clearing the stuff of the dead. Especially when the loss is still recent. And my mom even said that it could sometimes feel like she was "throwing [her] out the window." I told her that grandma isn't in the stuff. But she's still not quite ready to let things go.

It got me to thinking about our stuff. Whether we have very little or a veritable ton, we imbue our things with ourselves. We make choices about whether or not to bring things into our spaces, and whether those things are worth keeping for any number of reasons: utility, pleasure, memory, sensation, sheer likability. We place a value onto these items and allow them to surround us in our, often limited, environments. Nothing of our true Self is conveyed to these objects. Yet they linger with some essence long after we are gone.

Perhaps it is something like the seven degrees of separation game. Although you may be able to somehow link yourself in under seven relationships to Kevin Bacon, it means nothing about a relationship between you and Mr. Bacon. However, you may feel somehow connected to him because you can trace that path. And if it is under four degrees that feeling can be enhanced. You may find yourself watching Footloose on cable without realizing it is because of some sense of false intimacy. That or because of the dance montages, can't beat a good dance montage. So it also seems to be with our stuff. A set of silverware owned by the Queen of England will sell for far more than the other five hundred identical sets of silverware made by the same company in the same factory. Even silverware can possess some majesty in our minds.

When a person leaves this plane of existence, all that those of us left behind have are memories and the things they touched. These items hold memories often better than our minds. We may not recall the detail of a particular aspect of the dearly departed, but a scarf or the scent off a perfume bottle brings the sense of them right back in front of us. Holding these objects is the closest we can physically get to them again. No more hugs, or kisses, or soft embraces. Until we pass ourselves and there truly is a realm for the dead: Heaven, Hades, Valhalla, the Summerland. Or our souls come back in the form of another and we somehow find our path's crossing once more.

I don't know why it was easier for me to help clear through my grandmother's things. I just absolutely know that there is nothing of her soul in the stuff she left behind. I carry that piece of her within me. I can take it out and put my piece together with the pieces that my mother and sister and other family and friends carry. But we can never make her whole again. This saddens me, but I accept it. The only solid bet you can make in this life is that it will end. We have to make the best of what is here, what's in front of us, and hold the ones you love as close as you can today.

I've gained a stronger sense of pragmatism through this cancer journey. I put a lot less stock into objects and the owning of things than I used to (not that I had a lot of stock beforehand). I have also come to the personal conclusion that it really is all about the people and the relationships and the time you spend with others. These moments are the memories that will sustain your existence in their minds and hearts. To quote a great musical (Spring Awakening): "We've all got our junk, and my junk is you."

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