This past month I watched the entire process play out again, this time my parents, aunts and uncle moved grandma to an assisted living apartment. It was a forced move, grandma was not on board with the decision, she'd insisted on maintaining her independence for too long, but she really wasn't independent anymore. She required more help than she was willing to admit, and she didn't arrange the logistics make her stay tenable. I'm reading The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, a book full of many truths and this line resonated: "The last owner had died there--she hadn't wanted to leave, but she hadn't done much to maintain the house in the last fifty or so years either."
That line sums up the truth of grandma.
To say she went kicking and screaming to assisted living would be hyperbole, but she did cry and resist to the degree a very frail 93-year-old woman requiring a walker for mobility is able. Grandma had dug in with no plan to leave. She had buried herself in a pile of material goods and possibly forgot she'd obtained all these things; or as she became less mobile and restricted to fewer and fewer square feet of living space, never ran across most of her stuff any longer, out of sight, out of mind. By the time she moved out, she was really shuffling between four rooms of her entire house, less than fifty feet across from bed to couch to bathroom to kitchen sink. Oh, it was sad to walk through her house after she'd been moved out. Dozens of bottles of hair supplies, many packages of stationery, hundreds of trinkets and baubles--several still in their original plastic packaging, shoes that no longer fit, broken fishing equipment and stacks of magazines. All of it left behind--and for what purpose?
And then, so suddenly, she died. Her family began sifting through the remnants of her life, the collections and hidden secrets, the strange stash of plastic drinking straws (5 packages of them!) and paper napkins, the expired jars of pickles and the piles of receipts and statements and correspondence. Her whole life laid out for everyone to pick apart and then, whatever remained, sorted through again by estate appraisers and eventually divvied up and sold to the highest bidder. Every box, drawer, cupboard, nook and cranny is exposed and disposed of.
That's what it comes to. We really can't take it with us when we leave.
|No joke, someone will have to go through all this when I'm gone.|
Watching people cling so hard to their habits and possessions for naught haunts me. Someday my children and their partners and possibly their children, too, will pick through the detritus of my life. They'll donate my books and clothes, toss the contents of my freezer into the trash and divide the family heirlooms among themselves. Will they know the story behind the hutch in the library? Will they care to keep their great-grandfather's lunch bucket or great-great-grandmother's Irish crystal? Or will they feel like they have enough of their own stuff and pass it over? I want to believe I'll give away my good stuff in a timely manner, so the recipients can appreciate and use things before they become "junk." I pray that I downsize enough before I go so that my offspring won't have to discuss renting a dumpster to haul away my crap and make teasing jokes about the ridiculous things they'll find--old lists, cancelled stamps cut off envelopes, a jar of old screws just in case.
But mostly I hope that I'm proactive and choose to spend my last days living in a way that is productive and not burdensome to others. I hope that when I die I haven't become irrelevant, but that I am still contributing to the world around me in a meaningful way. I'd like people to say that about me, "She will be missed because she volunteered so much and gave so much--what a loss." I can't take anything with me, but I can control to some degree what I leave behind. Because when we're gone, we're reduced to this--the pile of stuff we've acquired, our relationships, good and bad deeds, whatever we create and whatever we consume. "For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that." 1 Timothy 6:7-8
And speaking of leaving behind--don't leave without writing comment in the comment box! Each comment is an entry to win a copy of Kim Kasch's new YA novel Demon's Ink. I'll pick a winner on Monday!
|Oh the irony! A post about purging our lives of our stuff--and giving away stuff! Ah, but you can pass the book along to another reader when you finish it, right?|