I had saved the most challenging container for last. (As an Archivist, I always do the hardest first; makes the rest a breeze). I had one large plastic (yes, I admit it, plastic) container full of old greeting cards, ticket stubs, school work, and manuals.
I was doing OK until I came across a random loose photo of me with my kitteh Butch. I was lying in the grass holding his tail as he strained to get away. It was a weird game he'd started and it was something he loved to do: have me 'pull' his tail. The picture was taken about four years before he died. Interspersed between a few of the pages below it were a few more pics: one of him with my husband and one of him walking toward the camera. *sigh*
I was fairly certain that the rest would be innocuous, but I was wrong. Suddenly, staring me in the face was the manual for a light weight stroller and a booster seat. It's really a struggle to even begin to put into words the feeling that these two ordinary pieces of paper evoke. They represent something lost, something found, and something lost again, forever.
|Photo courtesy of Laura Cosgrove Lorenzana 2012|
The first loss was my niece, Krystine. When she died, she was a 25 years old mom to two boys, 5 & 3 1/2, and a daughter, 10 months. Krystine died in her sleep of postpartum cardiomyopathy, a frightening disease that acts quickly and has no (currently) known cure. The Loss.
As Krystine's Aunt by marriage, I think that people thought I'd somehow be less sorrowful over her loss. Having known her since she was 8, and loved her from the moment I met her, nothing could've been farther from the truth. But her blood family was in complete shock, and I took the responsibility of trying to organize things very seriously.
I was the one who went out, the day after she died, to the bookstore to get books on the loss of a parent age appropriate for the boys. Their Grandma, in her grief, had told them that their Mommy had gone to sleep and that she wasn't going to wake up. I knew she wasn't able to process the loss of her own child, let alone explain it to Krystine's very young boys. And I knew that this moment, losing their Mommy, would have a life long impact on them. It was never going to be positive, but I was going to do everything in my power to make sure that it hurt as little as possible. So I bought the books, sat down alone with the boys and we figured it out together. C.J., the 5 year old, already seemed to completely understand what had happened, but Matthew, who was still shy of his fourth birthday needed to read the book with me before he was able to understand. It was one of my most heartbreaking experiences to watch as his little face showed confusion and then complete understanding. The Loss. And the Found.
It was that moment that I think I first realized for a moment what it must feel like to be a Mom. I was unable to have children of my own, so this was new territory for me. I just wanted to protect them from what was happening, even though I knew I couldn't. Protect them no matter what. And, that night as my husband and I lay in bed together crying over the loss of his 'little sister', his niece, he wondered aloud what would happen to the kids. Krystine, and her husband Jose, had come to us shortly after C.J. was born and asked us to be his guardian if anything happened to the two of them. We didn't hesitate to say yes. And after Matthew was born, Krystine and I had had a conversation about the fact that if anything happened to her that she would want her Uncle and I to take care of the kids. With her poor husband inconsolable at the loss of his wife, we couldn't help but wonder what was going to happen to her three children.
Well, Krystine's parents were as inconsolable as her husband, so my husband and I suggested that we take Emilyn, the baby, so that preparations for the services could be made without the distraction. After all, a 10 month old is a ball of energy not to be constrained, and we all knew she didn't understand what was happening. At the same time, she was clearly feeling the sorrow in the house, so we packed up a few of her things and brought her out to our house. My husband had grown up changing Krystine's diapers, and those of her cousins, so he was an old hand at the baby thing. I, on the other hand, was like a fish out of water. But I loved every single frustrating moment. And, in our haste to get her out of the house, we didn't have everything we needed. So, we went to Target and picked up a stroller, a booster seat, some utensils, bottles, sippy cups, stuffed animals, clothes...I'm pretty sure there was a point where my husband looked at me and said, "Enough." Heh. The Found.
I found my inner Mom. And then I had to put her away. Because, in the end, the kids went to live with my niece's in-laws during the week and her parents on the weekends. Like children of divorced parents, they're transferred back and forth. But, they are loved, very, very much. Except we never get to see them anymore. Unless it's one of their birthdays. Because, you know, that's how it is. Their Dad takes care of them and they're just our grand nephews and niece. The Loss.
All this, from two pieces of paper. Yep. I DO understand how hard it is to go through your Grandmother's things. Or your Dad's. Or your own. So I guess the question is, should I save these things? Or should I hold the memory in my heart and give the rest away?