We gathered yesterday to say goodbye as a family. With those of us born to her as family, and those who became her family by the process of loving her. Mass was said. A meal was shared. Words were spoken in remembrance. The length of her life seemingly a fast whisper in the vastness of existence.
Today, we entered her apartment for the last time. And room by room we cleaned it out, packed it up. Scattered bits of her material world amongst those of us still here. It always feels so intrusive. To go through someone’s belongings when they aren’t there. Even though she knew we would. Just last year at her request we had gone to help her lighten the load, so to speak. She had a plan in place for those of us who went to help her. I was assigned the closet. My husband, the desk. My aunt and uncle had their assignments. We all spent an afternoon bringing her items and reminiscing with her. She sat on the couch and we brought to her, her life, in that room. Some things she sent with us, because she wanted us or someone else to have them. Some things, she held on to, only for us to find them again today. But the best things were the stories. Those things, those family heirlooms of verbal history, never to belong to anyone else no matter who else hears them….. Those were the things that mattered the most. When we spoke I would ask for those stories, she would give them. Though she always said “who’s going to be interested in that? No one is going to want to know.” I did. Some questions she would answer. Some she would laugh off. But she always seemed to enjoy being asked.
Today I brought home her year books from high school. Here I sit, reading the words of her friends who went through the first years of her life with her. The friends who sent her off in to the world with words that ended one era of her life well over six decades ago, and propelled her into another era. And here I sit after the end of it all, reading their send off words. Full circle stuff.
I enjoyed the “swell” girl comments, and the inside jokes I will never know about. What happened on “Nov 9” that she and her friends will never forget. And why did they call her “The Inspector”? And why did one friend call her “our Little Gad About”? Joyful comments. Friends who asked her to pray for them, and friends who said they would pray for her. She was “The Quiet One”, “The Sincere One”. She was “frequently found in the chapel”. And I know she would have loved that she reminded her classmates of “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”.
Her secret ambition? “To be smart”.
She left those school years for many, many more school years to come. I hope she felt she nailed that ambition.
We spent today going all through her things. Things that over a life time became props in the story of her life. These props will now become part of other’s stories. My cousin has the 2oo year old chest that my aunt received from a family friend. Imagine the stories that prop played a part in. From across the seas to a little apartment in midwestern USA. Where will it go now? I have the cookie jar that belonged to my aunt’s (my father’s), mother’s, mother. If I leave it to one of my grandchildren that will be six generations that prop has played a part in. How far can it go? Will generations beyond me hold it and wonder “they sure made cookies smaller back in the day” and hopefully “imagine the generations who’s actual hands have held this”.
We’ve boxed up and cleared out all that we could today.
We’ve taken home what we could. Sent things to others who may be able to use them.
Now I have questions I can’t ask. And I still want to. But I think that’s a good thing. To leave with people wanting to know more. Leaving others curious about you. Maybe that’s just me. But I think that’s a good life. When others want to know about it.
I really want to know why they called her “The Inspector”. I think she would be tickled to know someone is curious.