Is this what it all comes down to when we’re gone?
Bags full of clothing donated to Goodwill?
Dresses once worn to weddings and graduations. Jeans in rainbow hues, the height of style. A leather jacket zipped close up the front. Shirts and skirts, purses and shoes, angels and candles, all part of a life fully lived and yet still, incomplete. All going on to be part of someone else’s life, someone who’s never pulled outfits off the rack at Nordstrom or Chicos or Black/White, admired them and then, purchased and worn them.
Is this what it all comes down to?
Maybe it’s this:
“This looked great on her at J’s wedding.”
“She wore this one all the time.”
“Oh, this is soo her!”
“What WAS she thinking?”
We’re four women going through her things, as she knew we would one day. As she expected. She was, after all, sick for a long time.
Her daughter. Her daughter’s oldest friend. Both now in their late 40s, but I have known them since their teens. How did we get to this day of rummaging, sorting, piling remnants of the life of a woman we loved?
And two of us, a certain age, her sisters. Not of blood, but of love. Sisters of her heart and she of ours. She was a decade older but still, we were sisters, the three of us.
We were sisters.
The four of us now, two generations, sliding drawers open, sorting things in piles for consignment, for Goodwill or for one of us to keep as a memento and in doing so, we celebrated the fullness of our beloved’s life. We assessed, we teared up, we smiled and we laughed out loud. At one point we each took a scarf from her vast collection of stylish and also inexplicable ones, wrapped them around our heads like hijabs and took a selfie. We looked ridiculous and we knew it–no one could wear a scarf like she did, certainly not us. The laughter was good medicine.
In a drawer I found a card I’d written her upon the death of the love of her life and folded within, the program from his funeral. In the card I’d written of love, of my understanding of hers for him, of his for her and of her grace in letting him go to the light with love. She’d tucked the mementoes together in a drawer with some clothing. Nothing else. Clothing, and this card I’d written, words with my deep understanding of how she’d felt and how he was and all that water under the bridge. Words that meant something to her.
Sisters. When you’ve chosen a family or origin like mine, in which the sister relationship is null and void, our sisterhood meant everything to me. Everything.
In another drawer I found a card the other sister of her heart had written her, again, with nothing else but some clothing. That card had spoken of the great gift of love she’d given that sister in marking an important occasion. That card, too, had been kept aside. That card, too, held special meaning.
Cards written by her two sisters, kept in special places. She probably reread them from time to time, the other sister said. Yes, I agreed. She probably did.
As we sorted, each of us chose tokens of remembrance. Earrings. A bracelet. Clothing. A scarf. One day in the not too distant future we’ll each pick up that piece of jewelry or put on that shirt and we’ll remember.
And that’s what it really comes down to. It comes down to the memories. It’s not the stuff at all. It’s the memories.
Back in my car I stared up at the second story shutters that covered the window in her loft. I imagined that she was up there in her chair, her caregiver fixing dinner, one of the sappy movies we both enjoyed on the TV. I remembered Riley trying to jump up in her lap the last time he’d visited her. I remembered telling her how we’d shop for a new love seat when she finished treatment. And I remembered better years, when we’d sat drinking tea and talking of life in a different way.
From the parking lot I could imagine that she was still there, behind the blinds. That I could open the door, run up the stairs and see her broad smile, exchange hugs, start dishing about all things. There, we’d exchange the gift of friendship, of sisterhood, as we had so many times in the past 30 years
The memory was so strong it felt true and real.
I started my car and headed for home, her face, her voice with me still.
Yes, in the end, that’s what it comes down to.