The exceptional article linked above focuses on the aftermath of losing someone for whom care was provided, and walking amongst the presence of that someone by virtue of their lingering essence; an essence that can not be bagged up and placed at the curb. Even the photos this blogger provides elicit clear images from when my parents died – thirteen years apart.
My father took comfort in my mom’s presence for many days after September 24, 1994, the day his wife died in her sleep: her handbag draped over the handle of the kitchen door; her reading glasses placed all through the house where she might have ended up needing them; the unfinished grocery list for items she anticipated purchasing later that week; the laundry basket containing clothes she removed from her body in the days preceding her death, not knowing that a few days hence, she would not be the one to launder them. I admit to hugging the bedsheets that had been removed from my mother’s bed the morning after her death. I buried my face in them, inhaling that which remained of my mother, as these were bedsheets on which her last breaths were taken.
When my father died thirteen years later, I collected some of his personal items that spoke to me: the crucifix that hung above his bed; the magnifying glass that he needed to read newspaper articles prior to losing his reading ability due to the insidious disease of Alzheimer’s; his favorite shirt – or was it mine? – that helped me to readily pick him out amongst the other residents in the crowded dementia unit dining room; and his worn out wallet containing items that even in the depths of his dementia, gave him a sense of importance and identity.
We all know that tactile items themselves don’t bring our loved ones closer to us. But these items act as surrogates for those who have passed, more or less serving as the catalyst that uncovers what matters to us most: the essence of the cherished being, and the memories that are not easily discarded.