Posts tagged "loss"

Wearable Memories

I sat next to a frail, elegant woman and noticed the heavy, man-sized ring on her index finger. “Was that your husband’s ring?” I asked. She nodded, and showed me the chain around her neck. “This was my mother’s,” she said.“I understand,” I told her. “I wear my mom’s wedding ring.”

ring hand shutterstock_30986500  Wearable Memories ring hand shutterstock 30986500

Many of us have things from loved ones – dishes, furniture, artwork, needle points, jewelry, clothing. But it is this last group of items — things we wear — that most intrigues me. These represent the private, personal connections we indulge in. Often, the items we wear are jewelry; rings are the most common. When my mother first died, I wore her wedding ring on a chain around my neck. Eventually, I put it away. One day, years later, I took off my wedding band and quietly put hers on my finger instead. I’ve worn it ever since. It just felt right.

I’m not alone, I know. One friend wears his mother’s wedding ring on his pinky finger. Another wears her mother’s bracelet. She says she feels like she is visiting with her mother when she has it on. Sometimes, the item represents an event of special significance. One friend said of a ring her mother gave her, “I rarely take it off because it is the very last ‘thing’ that she ever gave me and I feel as though a piece of her is always with me.” Sometimes the memories are less painful; one friend wears earings she gave her mother as a gift because she remembers shopping for them together.

The items we wear are not always jewelry. Some are clothes. On the outside, they appear ordinary. One friend wears her mother’s Mickey Mouse shirt. Another friend thinks of his dad when he wears his father’s golf shirts. I wear two tops that belonged to my mother-in-law. They are from Chicos, and I like them. But they are more than just clothes. Every time I wear them, I think, “Today I am wearing Bubbie’s shirt.”

Often, there is no single point in time when the item becomes special. It belonged to someone you loved, they died, and you decide to wear it, perhaps as a way to honor them, perhaps as a way to remember them, but mostly as a way to keep them close.

What I find so intriguing, what makes this appeal to me so much, is that it is all very personal and private. No one knows, when they look at my hand, that this is my mom’s wedding ring, and I like it that way. I covet our special relationship. When things have been part of someone else for so long, and they become part of your daily life as well, there is a connection, a continuity, a closeness, that is comforting. And perhaps that is the gift we receive from items we wear that belonged to people we loved. They comfort us.

What do you wear that belonged to someone you loved, and why do you wear it?

The Last Time I Was Mothered

second grave  The Last Time I Was Mothered second graveI don’t understand mid-life orphans. They complain about caregiving responsibilities, and then, when their parents pass away, they lament about being orphans. They say they feel bereft, unmoored, devastated by life without parents. Don’t they realize how lucky they are? Having elderly parents is a privilege some of us never had. 

If you’re a mid-life orphan, you’ve had the pleasure of parents for most of your adult life. You danced with your father at your wedding, you shared your joy with them when your children were born. You were able to show them the person you’ve become, and your children were able to know their grandparents. As they grew older, you were able to return the nurturing and love they gave you. Instead of mourning the loss of your parents, you should be glad for the time you had with them.

I became an orphan when I was young, and there are millions like me. My dad died when I was 7, and my mom, when I was 26. I grew up in the 50s and 60s, when hardly anyone was divorced. I didn’t know anyone besides me who didn’t have Continue reading

When Things Can’t be Mended

One of the most difficult aspects of packing is handling items that are already damaged or that have been previously repaired. These items are especially vulnerable to repeat damage. Sometimes, no matter how careful you are, these items break. Some clients are especially fragile, too. Like items that have been previously repaired, the stress of moving pushes them to the breaking point.

tea cup  When Things Can’t be Mended tea cupSome time ago, we worked with a couple moving to an active adult community. They asked for help getting their home ready for listing. At our initial meeting, the wife cried. I assumed it was from embarrassment at the home’s condition (which was exceptionally cluttered) or from anxiety that we would force her to throw things away. As we later learned, the real reason was more complex.

The couple had two grown sons, both of whom lived far away. A third son had died of a drug overdose many years ago and had been found in his bedroom by the father. After his son’s death, the father developed an alcohol problem, with which he had been struggling ever since. As we sorted, we came upon many items that had belonged to the deceased son. It was very difficult for both parents. The husband’s drinking increased during the sorting process, and we observed mounting tension between husband and wife. One day, we arrived at nine in the morning to find the husband already drunk and being taken to rehab. It was not the first time, his wife informed us. She doubted it would be the last.

“What can we do?” my staff asked. Continue reading