Her Life In That Room


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.

Aunt Molly


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52 thoughts on “Her Life In That Room

  1. bikebrown says:

    What a wonderful tribute to life well lived.


  2. reocochran says:

    I may be not the best reader but determined you lost a dear and special aunt, Colleen. Sister to your Dad. You liked hearing her stories, which is how I am with family and friends. ♡
    I liked how people saw her in 2 opposite directions, responsible and an inspector and a gad about and swell. I think this is so true of people and how they open up more with some than others. 🙂


  3. Carrying on her spirit for sure.


  4. Mustang says:

    Such excellent writing …


  5. This is so wonderful and truly is a wonderful tribute to a lovely person that was in your life. May she rest in peace. God bless her and God bless you.


  6. Oh Colleen, a beautiful life to be celebrated. What a wonderful treasure of memories. May you all find joy in her life and everything she left behind. Just in the moment as you all gathered together. Much Love.


  7. #8 says:

    Aww! Love the drawing. It’s perfect


  8. Ann Koplow says:

    Beautifully written and drawn, Colleen. Thank you.


  9. Sorry for your loss, Colleen. This is a heartwarming tribute for someone well loved. ❤ ❤ ❤


  10. Anonymous says:

    perfectly stated. I am in love with chest. It landed in the perfect spot in my dining room; like it was made to go there. I should do some inspecting and find out all I can know. Good to see today;….next time for Fun!!


  11. Robin says:

    Beautiful tribute, CM. I’m sorry for your loss, but happy for the stories she got to tell you.


  12. Mustang.Koji says:

    What beautiful writing… She could not have asked for a better writer. Indeed, I wonder to…


  13. tric says:

    sorry for your loss Colleen. What a beautiful tribute and memory of a life lived. For me it is the stories told that I love so much when I am with someone older or someone whose life is fading.
    Recently I was with my Mum and she told me some amazing stories of her past. I thought I had a good idea of who she used to be but these stories were like colours painted over the black and white of what I knew already.
    Codladh Sámh to your aunt. (It was your aunt wasn’t it?)


  14. I loved this tribute so special and lovely! I really felt every emotion as if I was sitting with you going through those things! Such a unique way to pay tribute! xx


  15. Val Boyko says:

    Beautifully written Colleen. I’m curious too and I’m smiling along with you 💛


  16. ksbeth says:

    my hunch is that the inspector would be very proud of you.


  17. reocochran says:

    I should have expressed a more serious comment. I am tender hearted and do feel bad you lost someone special in your family, Colleen. I like how you listened to her stories and cared to treasure her gifts. I like how you studied her yearbooks and really smiled at how different people pictured her in different ways. Hugs sent your way. . .


  18. Debra says:

    I agree that it’s hard to go through a loved one’s things when they’re gone from us. It feels both precious and intrusive. I’m sorry for your loss, Colleen. Your words highlight how special she was. ox


    • Thank you Debra. It was made a little bit easier because of working with her this past summer and helping her clean things out. She wanted to downsize for just this purpose. But OH the things we gather.

      I’m glad I did her justice.


  19. April says:

    As I’ve said many times, to remember and celebrate the lives of those we have lost is the best way to survive. I would be curious to know about the Inspector as well. Sometimes I look at my dad’s old photos from when he was in the Navy and often wonder what he was like as a young man. They only tell us so much (unless they’re my mom and we hear the stories over an over). It’s nice to know your loved one was loved by others as well.


    • I think the same things about my dad!!!

      If I ever find out why they called her The Inspector, I will let you know.

      And like you, I believe the memories and feelings are what help us survive. Thank you April.


  20. Jim McKeever says:

    Beautiful, Colleen. Just beautiful.


  21. I have experienced this. Yes mother’s year book Curtis High 1937 Staten Island, New York. I was her home hospice nurse the last six weeks of her life. Seemed like little pieces of herself were given to me each day as she faded.


  22. M. L. Kappa says:

    What a lovely post. Reminds me of so many things. And how many things one regrets not having asked…


  23. I spent hours writing down my grandmother’s stories before she died. All about her life during the Great Depression and in World War II. How she raised her children, and what she could remember of her mother and grandmother. Those stories were the most precious legacy that she left me.


    • What a wonderful gift that was, for her to have all of that for you. And what an ever lasting gift for your family. I’m trying to talk my uncle into writing some of his stories out. I think they would be a smashing hit with the family!


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