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All the Stuff You Leave Behind.

It's been awhile since I've posted, but recent happenings sparked emotions I'm sure others share. Or even if you haven't yet, this could be a heads-up that they *will* happen, they'll suck, and you'll get through them.

November will mark 4 years since my beloved Mom passed away. Last week, I opened her makeup cabinet in her bathroom and threw all her makeup in the trash.

That was Situation #1, which wasn't something I'd dreaded, per se, just something on a long list of things in her house (which my step-dad still lives in) that need doing. And I have a toddler (which, frankly, should explain everything), and am trying to get a literary agent and write manuscripts, and go to the gym and spend time with my husband and see friends when possible and do fun things so I don't forget there are fun things to do. So it's taken me this long to get to it.

I'm a very emotional, sensitive, nostalgic person. But I didn't sob my way through the task. I did it pretty stoically and quickly, but that's my point; right after she'd died, and for those first two years, that would not have been possible. Every item she touched, I refused to throw out. I couldn't bear the thought of anything that had been hers — or a gift to me, or to anyone else — going in the bin. It all had to stay, because it was all part of her.

But now nearly 4 years have passed, and while I miss her as much as ever, and long for her wisdom and laugh and smiles and hugs and thoughtfulness and sensitivity and encouragement more than ever, and wish she'd met and held my daughter just once, I now have enough distance from the event of her sickness and death to see that she would not want me holding on to every last thing like anchors.

Situation #2: I bagged up 20 large garbage bags of all her clothes. She had a lot. My aunt (her sister) helped me. A charity picked it all up. I'd been meaning to do it for ages (see above) but it took me all of 5 minutes to find a charity that will pick up clothes and household items for free, and allow me to book a slot online. The logistics are easier than you think. And if you have the luxury of time that I did, it's much easier after some time has passed.

Not everyone has that luxury. My husband's mother died suddenly and we had a short time in which to sell her house and clear everything out. That was easier in the long run maybe, but much harder in the short term.

Dealing with my Mom's clothes was maybe harder than the makeup because she loved clothes shopping and loved having a variety to choose from, having grown up with so little and having to share everything with 7 siblings. She looked so pretty in blue, so it was especially hard to bag up the blue items. Obviously those who'd wanted certain things already took them, myself included. Call it silly if you want, but when I came home for her funeral, I was at her house and took a casual outfit I'd seen her wear often around the house, just jeans and a top, but it reminded me so much of seeing her walk in the room, feed the cats, sit down, and drink her tea. And I may look at it once a year, and that might seem pointless. But it gives me peace to know I have it.

And I can give away the rest, knowing she'd want them given to someone who needs them. She was the most generous, selfless person I know, who deserved so much more than she experienced on this planet.

The hardest thing about this, the only really hard thing, was finding the new baby card she'd set aside to send to my husband and I when our daughter was born. She was born on my Mom's birthday, but they'd never got a chance to meet.

The card came home with me. I don't care that Mom didn't write a message inside; she'd picked it out before our daughter had been born and set it aside. She wasn't well enough at the time to fill it out and send it. But it still means the world to me. I miss you more than ever, Mom. You're not here, in these material things, but they bring me back in an instant to when you were. I'm keeping all I need, and letting the rest go. I hope you don't mind that it's taken this long.

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