The last of the jewelry and Thanksgiving

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.

HHP

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This deserves a long hug. And some tears. Words just don’t do enough!

((((HP))))

=sheila

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Granted - that’s the toughest time for coping with grief and loss - going through their (loved ones) stuff. I was in that position with both parents, trying to remember what Mom’s wishes were for her jewelry - who she wanted to give various pieces to. I dispersed it according to my best memory of what she wanted. It was a tough time…her clothing smelled like her - funny things you remember…Thankfully, my daughter was there to help me go through it all - I shared memories with her, the good and the bad…sad at the memories.

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My wife loved decorating for the holidays. We’ve got boxes of Halloween decorations, which were promptly replaced by Thanksgiving decorations (thankfully including a fair amount of crossover of the more generic fall decorations). Then starting the day after Thanksgiving, the big swap to Christmas.

It certainly feels different without her touch around the house. My son didn’t want any Halloween decorations this year. I tried to do a bit of Christmas last year, and may do a bit more this year.

It certainly makes the holiday season harder without her around. It’s just not the same. And I suppose it never will be. Perhaps the best we can do without our loved ones is to find a new normal that we can live with.

—Peter

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So sorry that you’re going through this ,its got to be so tough.

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Thanks @sheila727. Now I understand why experts say to allow 2 years on average for grieving. You need the first year for sadness and tears and the second year for transition to a new way of being in this world. We are nearing that second year anniversary for my father’s death. There were more smiles than tears as I sorted through the jewelry. Most of the items were associated with happy memories.

HHP

I agree @Tuni. It’s the really personal items that are the most difficult. After my mother died, my father handed me her purse and said, " We always respected each others’ privacy. I never went into her purse and she never went into my wallet. Please take care of this for me." I remembered this moment when I cleaned out my father’s wallet.

HHP

This ^^^^^

Last year I chose a small number of meaningful decorations for the holidays and set them out. I put up my artificial tree, but I only put lights on it. I didn’t have the energy to put in a lot of effort (and my SO was still almost completely bedridden and barely using crutches from his foot surgery). Decorating for the holidays is a labor of love, but it can also be a lot of work. Putting everything away is even more work.

Maybe you and your son could choose a small number of decorations or holiday photos that make you smile, if you’re ready for it. (((Peter)))

HHP