My dad has been gone now for over two months. Some days are still really hard. One of the hardest was about one month ago when daddy had been gone for a full month. That day was really hard. I journaled at the end of that hard day. Journaling is my therapy.
I stood in front of his closet, and pulled his shirts from their hangers, one by one. Some I folded and stacked in a pile, others I wadded for the trash. Mamma sat and watched, making comments about each shirt. Some he’d owned for thirty years. A few were much newer. Almost every one held a memory for me. I had been avoiding this task for a month, needing to keep Daddy’s presence in the house just a little bit longer. Somehow, his things were doing that for me. But slowly, one by one, his things were being given away, or thrown out.
As I took each shirt from its hanger, I held back my tears. Crying sure wouldn’t make the task easier. But then I reached into the closet and pulled out a pair of khaki dress pants, his belt still through the loops. This was the last pair of pants dad wore before pajamas became his permanent attire, and I remembered the day he wore them last. I hugged him that day, right before he got into the car in the church building parking lot. He looked weak and was breathing heavy.
I pulled the belt from the loops and couldn’t hold the tears back any longer. He is really gone.
After the closet was empty of all Daddy’s belongings, I moved to his dresser drawers and began emptying those. Missing from the top of the dresser was the ceramic dish that he’d always emptied his pockets into. It’s across the road, on my dresser in my own bedroom now. But it doesn’t really belong there. It belongs on Daddy’s dresser, where it has been since I was a little girl.
I keep asking myself “Why do these material things matter to me?” I know better than to define people by their belongings. Dad wasn’t defined by his clothes, or his shelf full of John Wayne movies, or his favorite chair.
I remind myself every day that his body is gone, but he has a soul that is living on, much better off now. He’s cancer free and definitely not missing his life on earth or his things. But my mind and my heart are in a tug of war. My heart isn’t ready yet to listen to reason.
That was my journal entry that day. And today I looked back at it and added this:
A month ago, I took daddy’s clothes to the Goodwill store. I handed them the bags of clothing and a few things on hangers. But when I got to the bottom of the pile I felt panic. I didn’t want to give Dad’s clothes away! So I left one gray suit in my car. I told myself I’d keep it just a little longer and drop it off another day.
And one month later, two plus months after my daddy left me, I am still driving around with one of his suits in the back of my car. I know it is getting more wrinkled and dusty with each passing day. I’ve had dozens of opportunities to donate it but I always tell myself “I’ll keep it just a few more days. Then I will leave it.”
I know that I will eventually let it go, but my heart isn’t ready yet to listen to reason.