I’ve spent the last few weeks looking through and getting rid of Raymond’s things. In this process, I’ve been thinking a lot about death. Ray and I talked about death often and he spoke of when his parents died, how sad it was going through their treasures and trying to decide what to do with everything. He often said how, after you die, you will be forgotten in one or two generations. It realized that his reflections were probably true. Life is funny like that, it goes on.
I’ve never been this “close” to death. I am blessed to have both of my parents alive and healthy. My grandparents all died, but I was not the one going through their things. So, faced with the huge responsibility of deciding what to keep and what to donate to charity, I began the daunting task of going through Raymond’s things. Raymond’s life.
When we moved in together, it wasn’t easy for Ray to give up the second bedroom for me. That bedroom was designed for his great nephews to come and spend the night. He had been living there for 2 years and they never did come in for a sleepover. It had bunk beds and a shelf that was filled with mementos from his childhood. I made it into a meditation/beading room/kitty litter closet. So I took many of his things, combined with a couple of mine, and made the two of us a “child’s alter” On that alter I have his old fashioned money changer from his paper route, his baby shoes, a couple of old skate keys, yo-yos, an old toy car, and an autograph book from 8th grade, in which every entry say’s “watch out for the girls,” he must have been quite the lady’s man even back then. That alter will remain right where it is and I will cherish his childhood memories.
It was only one year ago in June that I moved in this cozy little trailer. Ray wasn’t crazy about the art work in my home. I had Buddha pictures, eastern sculptures and vintage Hawaiian artwork. We rented a storage unit and I put my art in it along with my dishes, and boxes of other things, with the thought that if we bought a second home in Florida I could decorate it with my things.
While looking around here, everything reminded me of Raymond. His western art, his dishes, his old boxes of photos. Everywhere I turned, I saw “our house” and there is no “our” anymore. I decided to go through his things with the goal of bringing some of my things here. I needed to shift the energy and make it more “my” place. Not an easy task. The question came to mind “Am I throwing Raymond away?” It was a tearful process.
The one thing I was specifically looking for was Raymond’s discharge papers from the army so I could get him a free headstone from the VA. I finally found them while looking through a box of his income tax returns. He had them dating back to 1988. Who saves 30 years worth of income tax returns? He was a saver, I pitched them.
One thing I loved about Raymond is how sentimental he was. His cousin tells the story of Ray golfing in shoes that were two sizes too small for him, the reason being; they were his father’s golf shoes. He honored the life of his father, by wearing those golf shoes.
In going through his paperwork, I came upon a bronze colored, old metal box. Inside were the remnants Raymond’s childhood. He saved every birthday card, from birth announcements to his 11th birthday. He had every report card promoting him to the next grade level and letters from his parents and his sister written to him while he was in the army. These were his treasures.
He saved every wood shop project he’d ever made. A little wooden sail boat and a little tray with an inlayed design in the center. Yes, Raymond was sentimental, saving special memories of his youth, his treasured childhood, which he talked about often. He had a huge box of framed, family pictures, all strangers to me; memories to his family. Although I love all of these treasures, I am unable to hang on to them. A trailer has only so much cupboard space. I put together some boxes to go to his family.
When Raymond first found out he had cancer, we had many conversations about “what if I die?” He told me what to do with some of his valuables. He wanted his cousins to have them and I decided to give them his cowboy hats and boots as well. They were thrilled.
It gave me a sense of peace giving his precious treasures to people who wanted them, would use them, and always remember Raymond when they did. The process of going through Raymond’s things took me three weeks and four boxes of Kleenex as well as a few paralyzing days. Is this what it all comes down to? Raymond’s things, his treasures, his life, separated into three piles; save, give to family and give to good will?
As I look around my trailer, the “western art” is gone and my eastern art has taken it’s place, yet I see Raymond everywhere. He gutted this trailer when he moved in and put in the floors, walls, the fireplace, carpeting and painted it tastefully in egg shell. I have pictures of the two of us all over. I didn’t change the bedroom, bathroom or my meditation room, but I made the living room and kitchen mine. I hope to think that Raymond is looking down and liking the changes I’ve made. He wanted me to have this trailer and although it isn’t “ours” anymore, I’d like to think he’d be happy with the choices I made.
I realized that I am not throwing Raymond away, I have spread him out and shared him with his family and unknown people who will get some of his treasures from the good will.
Life goes on and Raymond’s memory lives on in my heart, spirit and the few things I saved of his that I will keep until the day I die, when someone sorts my treasures into three piles.