The Low-Down on Downsizing – Part 1

I made up my mind when Megan passed away that I would take my time on sorting through her things, and nobody was going to bully me into thinking they knew best. It was my daughter (as she was dying) that gave me the courage to see how I should live my life. Megan was completely clear that her body had been pieced apart; by chemo, by radiation, by the loss of an adrenal gland and kidney, and ultimately by cancer taking siege of her very life. Yet, before she died she left everything to me, saying she did not want ‘the others’ coming in like locusts…piecing apart her personal possessions. (Editor’s note: You need to watch the television series Lost to appreciate the significance of the words ‘the others’)

It must have been the grace of God Almighty that I was able to navigate through her death (and the weeks after) with a sense of control. While there are no advantages to having a daughter die slowly of an aggressive cancer, there are positive points to having time to think through what you and your loved-one want. I had lots of time prior to her death. I absolutely knew what I wanted, and no well-meaning relative was going to decide for me.

The truth is for me, and most readers, that your sincere family and friends would love to come in, void of your feelings and emotions, and box up the life of the person you just laid to rest. Somewhere there is a line of thinking that says it’s more emotionally healthy to clear out the old clothes and personal items immediately. Resist the temptation to let ‘the others’ decide for you.

The day after Megan’s funeral, for whatever crazy reason that I need not defend, I had Aunt Shirley load up all of Megan’s intimate undergarments and my cousin Garry drove them to The Goodwill. There was something so wildly personal about her Victoria’s Secret underwear and her lacy bras bought on e-bay.  I made the decision that I would let them go immediately, lest I become the crazy mom who spent my days clutching my daughter’s personal items. Megan would yell at me for being a loon, and I resisted the temptation by the immediate removal of those items. Remember, I decided. It was the right time for me.

Be clear on the fact that the only thing that was immediately removed were her undergarments. It’s been a slow process on other items over the last 22 months. So many times, I just knew. I just knew it was time to let go…I knew where Megan would want that item to go…I knew I was ready to let go. My favorite story was about a month after her death. I opened a drawer to behold countless headbands. They ranged from glittery rhinestones to classy velvet. When my girl had hair, she adorned it with beautiful accessories. Opening the drawer I thought, “What in the world am I going to do with these?”

To my surprise, that question was immediately answered. An old friend e-mailed me that day to inquire about my well-being. He went on to say that his daughter, Jillian, had a headband of Megan’s that she wore every night to bed. Jillian told her dad she thought of Megan every time she pulled it through her hair. Megan, who was Jillian’s babysitter, had given the headband to her many years prior. I had no idea. Megan would weep in that knowledge. It made me cry thinking that most every single night, in health and sickness, the girl Megan used to babysit was thinking of MY girl. In a moment, I just knew where the headbands should go.

I know many of my friends/relatives wanted to box up Megan’s things to spare me from further heartache. The truth of the matter is they would have also denied me the joy of boxing up part of my daughter’s lifetime, and mailing it to a vibrant young woman named Jillian.

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3 comments

  1. Valerie, I liked this the first time I read it. So I bookmarked it. Now I want to tell you I am republishing it at http://www.beingcancer.net as part of this week’s Guest Post. I included two links to your site as well as a link to the original post. You should see an increase in traffic. This also allows me to add you to our Honor Roll for Excellence in Cancer Writing.
    Take care, Dennis

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Article by: Valerie Bourdain