Posted March 10, 2010 (11 months into widowhood)
Many years ago, while in my mother’s basement, I noticed a piece of very deteriorated lace. It was a remnant of what was once a beautiful Victorian wedding dress. It looked more like a shredded, discolored rag than a representation of a special, memorable day. The wedding dress had belonged to my grandmother. The ragged piece of lace was one of the very few things, which my mom had to remember her mother by, because my grandmother passed away when my mom was only five years old. When I made this discovery, I couldn’t understand why anyone would hold onto something that was in such poor, irrepairable condition. Now, I have more compassion for my precious mother’s inability to let go of this sad relic.
When I first brought Buck’s belongings home from York Hospital, I could not bring myself to clean his hairbrush or discard his toothbrush that had stood like a lonely soldier in the stand on his vanity. After a few months, I put his toothbrush out of sight and even now his hairbrush is tucked away, still holding the strands of his hair that I can’t part with. I don’t understand it, but to do so, feels like I’m throwing away a part of him. In my mind, I know how ridiculous that sounds, but my heart won’t permit it! I feel sad every time I have to open a drawer that holds something that belonged to Buck. I know the time will come, when my heart will be healed enough to let go. I never anticipated that something so small would be so difficult.
If you have been following my journal very long, you already know that Buck and I were hikers; even on our first date, when we explored the trails at Skyline Drive. Hiking was our favorite form of recreation, both locally and whenever we went on vacations. Our vacations most often revolved around our hiking adventures in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. I shared that Buck hiked nearly all of Vermont’s Appalachian Trail (AT) miles and it was his dream to hike the entire trail, after he was fully retired.
One summer, we visited Maine to check out the Katahdin end of the AT: the southbound starting point or the northbound through hikers final destination and lofty goal. My Bofren loved to share the memory about the year he neglected to remember my birthday and made me climb Mt. Katahdin on that scorching August day. It was a grueling hike and I confess, my feelings were hurt; but I never let on and did my best to maintain a pleasant attitude in spite of his oversight. He was so excited to be there! I think I did a pretty good job of covering over my disappointment, although I really wasn’t sharing his enthusiasm!
Several days later, Buck drove to the nearest phone booth (pre-cell phone days) to call his daughter. As they were ending their conversation, Jessi told her dad to wish me a happy birthday for her. As he approached the screen room that protected our picnic table area from the local insects, he stood on the outside and hung his head. With his sheepish grin, he asked: “So, am I in the doghouse?” I laughed at him and told him I was wondering how long it might take him to remember! He promised to make it up to me and he did. He also made a vow to never again plan a vacation that would include my birthday. I didn’t hold him to that one.
During a shopping trip to a recreational outfitters store, Buck decided to buy two pairs of outrageously expensive hiking socks. My thought was: at that price they better last forever; surely there were pure threads of gold woven throughout! I understood the necessity of having them for the purpose of making his hiking or hunting adventures more comfortable, but I didn’t understand when he would wear them to work and for everyday use. Just like any other socks, these too wore out. I found his holey socks in the beginning of winter and as you may have already guessed; I couldn’t part with them either. Even though they are too big for me, they have become my favorite slippers…I’m wearing them right now. They look ridiculous and I don’t care! They are another unexpected source of comfort to me.
I know these attachments won’t last forever, but for now I am enjoying the memories that they hold and the comfort they provide. It’s okay if some don’t understand. There was a time when I wasn’t able to comprehend such a silly notion. It’s hard to predict how things might affect a person who is grieving the loss of a loved one. Sometimes lessons in compassion are learned the hard way. Nevertheless, my heart and my cold feet appreciate my Bofren’s holey socks.
There is no timeline or urgency in dealing with all of his belongings. For now, I choose not to deal with it. There are too many other more important issues to consider. I know God will help me when the time is right.
There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, … a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, …a time to keep and a time to throw away. Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, 4, 6