My grandmother passed away on October 29th at around 7:45 in the morning.
She went peacefully. With my grandfather's name on her lips. She knew where she was going. She knew what she was going to do when she got there. She wasn't afraid.
Tomorrow it will be a week. My dad and aunt went to get the ashes from the funeral home, and brought them back and promptly sat them on her mantle. The urn is cold and gray and decorated with what looks like a Greek pattern.
We all came to her house last night and took things that were meaningful to us. I felt like the Thenardiers from Les Miserables. Who wants this? Anyone interested in that? You want back this thing you gave her?
Clothing was taken from the closets and put in large black trash bags.
Jewelry boxes were opened and displayed. Nothing of real value, except sentiment.
China cupboards were emptied and the contents arranged haphazardly on folding tables.
We all walked around with our hands behind our backs, surveying the loot like museum artifacts.
Everything came with a memory. Things that did not hold sentimental value were put in a pile to be donated along with the toaster and the like. As we would touch objects, we would recall the moments we remembered with them. The coffee mugs. The items she would ALWAYS have on the coffee table. The things she had hanging on the walls for as long as any of us could remember.
I remembered this key chain she had- pappy gave it to her. It had a $20 bill in it ever since I could remember. She said it was there for an emergency. An emergency she never had, apparently, because when we went through her purse it was still there. Her purse was actually stolen once in a store. The robbers took her wallet and chucked the rest of the purse out of the car window. They should've kept the keys. There was probably more money in the key chain than in her purse.
We also came across all this stuff she never used. Like. Ever. Like, hadn't seen the light of day since their wedding day. She had everything labeled- that was her thing. Little tiny bits of paper with her polite handwriting on them.
"Bought this from a little old peddler man. My first real ring."
"The scratches on this chest are from Newton jumping up on it to look at the window."
"Candles given by maybe Francie Frank I'm not sure."
And on and on. Everything was a treasure.
Liam wanted in on the action, of course, and so I told him he may only pick the things that made his heart sing. "If you pick something up and you can feel your heart sing, you may ask permission to have it. Everyone needs to be mindful of everyone else."
He came home with a coffee mug, a small blue vase, a baby food maker, some wind chimes and other outdoor items, kaleidoscopes, some small cars, and a pocket knife in the shape of a train. Some absolutely amazing treasures for a 3 year old boy. He held the pocket knife in his pocket like it was going to jump out and fly away if it wasn't grasped tightly. He was so proud.
I took silly things. A cup I remembered drinking from. Door stops I had always admired. A locket I found. Some wooden boxes I thought were cool. The glass bottle of water she always kept next to the fridge because she didn't like cold water. A few boxes of table linens she never ever opened. Everything odd and old and precious to me.
Andy was given his choice of pocket knives and also requested a signed head shot of a band leader from the 40's. She had apparently sent away for it when she was young because the envelope only said her name, the street she lived on and the town. Who needs a house number? He quietly followed me around the house, taking objects from me and carefully arranging them in boxes to be taken home.
By the end of the night I had six boxes, a small side table, and a bench my grandfather made. It was sobering at best. I had never wanted anything at my Nanny's house but Nanny. Her giggle. Her laugh. The way she would get down on her knees and play with her GREAT grandchildren. The way she loved Pappy. And us. And Liam. How she'd never smile for pictures because she always hated her smile. How she always dreamed of red hair and freckles...
Those things can only live in my heart, not in my home. So I will take this moment to re-evaluate. Why am I keeping clothing "just for nice"? Why do we have dishes we never use? Use them! Because it's not the boxed items that people went for first last night- it was the worn stuff. The table with the scratches. The dumb plastic cup you always reached for. Those are the things that create memories- not the linens that haven't been out of the box since the 40's.
And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.