Photographs. Papers. Triplicate copies of 214 Forms. Certificates. Divorce decrees. Typewritten letters of commendations and gratitude. Notes on the margins of decade old bills. The contents of the last box of heirlooms lays on the carpet floor waited to be collated, recycled, edited. The mission was a success. None of these papers and mementos tug at my heartstrings. They were hers, treasures of a life well lived.
I’m an outsider looking in.
Many of these items don’t concern me. They are meaningless, full of words that are hard to decipher. I keep going back to the photos, of which are many, and decide which ones to include inside the fireproof document bag. Settling on a few from OCS, I wonder who those people smiling at the camera where. What did they mean to her? Would she even remember?
My sister kept a few of her things too. I wonder which ones would have good stories to tell if they suddenly became animated. There were so many questions left to answer. So many things left unsaid. I didn’t know I hadn’t learned everything there was to learn from her. No one knew we didn’t have much time to inquire within. The devil was in the details after all. This is all that is left after 33.5 years of service. This is all that is left of the sacrifices made to ensure we had a better lifestyle.
All I want is to never forget her smile. Her face. Whenever I laugh out loud my brain reminds me I sound like her. She’s everywhere and nowhere at the same time. A guiding inextinguishable fire. A beacon of hope, perseverance and grit. The lighthouse that always leads me safety to the harbor. Metaphors and similes. There’s very little concrete evidence left. It’s all anecdotal at this stage. I wrack my brain trying to remember what’s real and what’s not. Nostalgia is half imagination, half recall – and you’d be lucky to remain unbiased after grief has cut you down to size.
It’s amazing how much living is done in between work and sleep. The many lives we touch and influence. The names on the funeral book proof that her worth was measured by her actions, the connections and networks she became an integral part of, the people she helped succeed. There are too many good deeds that will go unpunished, unrecognized, unsung. I wonder how much of this goodwill still lives through us, in us, without us realizing it.
As I put the lid on the memories that remain, I wonder what people will do with my own collectibles. With the scrapbooks and trunks of souvenirs, with the trinkets and reminders of all our world travels. My husband wonders the same since we don’t have children, yet, and our heirs may not be as keen to sift through the past as we’ve done for all of our dearly departed ancestors. What would the next generation keep? What would they remember? The way we made them feel? Lessons learned? The way we endured?