It’s getting to be that time of year when families gather and we think of loved ones who have passed. My mother died about a week before my 50th birthday. We both had November birthdays and we always celebrated them together with family on Thanksgiving Day. I am turning 60 this month and the 10th anniversary of Mom’s death is coming. My mother died a few days before Thanksgiving and we buried her a couple days after. The day of her funeral was the day my parents were supposed to meet my then boyfriend – who is now my SO. My father started home hospice the evening before Thanksgiving 2020, so I think Thanksgiving will always be a bittersweet holiday for me.
Last year was the really tough holiday season – the first one with both parents gone. Holiday plans were canceled at the last minute due to positive Covid tests by various family members.
This year will be easier, but it will be a time to figure out new traditions.
A couple weeks ago, I got out my parents’ jewelry boxes. The clean out of my father’s house was complicated during Covid (donation places were closed and estate sales were not happening), so I chose to keep some of the more sentimental and valuable items that were not immediately requested by family members. I knew we might want to revisit some decisions later, once some time had passed.
My Mom had one of those big old jewelry boxes with lots of padding and hooks and pockets for necklaces. The inside of the box still smells like my Mom’s skin cream. My father was never able to finish cleaning out her things. My father kept her jewelry box on his dresser (and managed to use the top as a coaster – Love you Dad!).
I decided it was time to do the final jewelry clean out. I took pictures of over 50 items left in my Mother’s jewelry box and sent them out to my siblings and their kids. There was very little overlap in who requested which items. I have bagged the items and will see many of the family members between now and the end of the year. One of my nieces is interested in the jewelry box itself and I think my brother will like seeing it on her dresser.
My father’s box contained some beautiful cuff links and tie pins and bars. No one requested these items. No one wears these things any more, but they have that wonderful feeling of fine jewelry and good memories. Family members were interested in his graduation keys/pins and key chains and some other small sentimental items.
When you are cleaning out these personal items, it’s easy to say you don’t want something, but it is more difficult to be the person to dispose of or sell or donate the items. There’s an annual high end rummage sale near me that donates all proceeds to cancer research, cancer patients, cancer survivors, travel and hotel stays for families, etc. I told my family I would donate anything left over to this organization for their sale. My sister volunteered to take everything left over and keep it in the family for now. It will be easier to hand the jewelry to her than to drop it off for the sale.
I still have some of the special knick-knacks and art pieces from my parents’ home. SO and I bought our retirement ranch house earlier this year. We are almost done buying new furnishings. Once we have our new furniture delivered and arranged, I will make a final pass through the possessions to see what fits into our new home and what doesn’t. I expect at least one more round of pictures sent out to family members.
Grief and stuff – it’s a process.
I hope you all have good memories to enjoy and opportunities to make some new ones this holiday season. Love and hugs to everyone who is caregiving and/or grieving and making tough decisions.