what is left when we leave…

Boxes. Boxes, and dust, and old furniture.

In the end, we are gone, and we leave behind the remnants of our lives for our family and friends to sort through and make sense of. What’s left is just stuff, but that stuff can speak volumes about who we were when we were still breathing.

She was clearly someone that valued knowledge. There were seemingly endless boxes of books, and most of them were informational in nature. Sure, there were novels, but mostly there were books on health, politics, and culture. She learned because she thought it was important. Years of teaching had cemented in her the drive to glean what she could from the world around her to expand what she knew, to better herself.

Along with the ones filled with books, there were boxes of paper. Every sheet covered in words, her words. Stories, poetry, family history, some typed, some handwritten with meticulous care in her unbelievably flawless print. She was prolific, to say the least, and she left behind a life’s worth of work. There were  short, silly tales written for the children in her life next to heart-wrenching poems from the days after she lost her beloved husband. Every letter chosen thoughtfully. Every word carrying her soul and delivering it to the world.

Next to her bed, and inside of boxes, we found names. The names of people she loved, written over and over. Like a penned rosary, they carried her prayers upward. Her love for her family and friends was clear. The time she spent alone, she spent thinking of those that she held dear, and when she left, the evidence stayed behind.

Her voice and laughter wafted out of every box as we cracked it open. It may seem silly to get sentimental over old, cracked Tupperware or a few tools, but they were so her. She is the only woman I know that would keep ordinary pliers and a hammer in a lovely, woven basket. She was unique, and every item she owned fit her perfectly.

It has been an emotional experience. No, that isn’t strong enough, it has been a consuming, weighty, humbling privilege to be the one to lay to rest the last vestiges of her life. It has left me utterly spent, and yet, there is no way it is something I would have missed.

It is an honor to have been her great-niece, it is an honor to have loved and been loved by such an extraordinary woman, and it is an honor to take care of her this one, last time.

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