A friend was telling me about a widower she has befriended whose wife of 25 years died four years ago. She noticed that his home looks like a shrine to his late wife. There are many photos placed in special spots throughout the house. They are platonic friends and she feels attracted to him. She wonders if/when he will begin to let go of the photos. She asked me what my journey of letting go was like after my late husband’s death.
The letting go process for me came in several phases. The first phase that I am writing about today was the letting go of Roy’s clothes, shoes, and other items in our closet. I needed several friends’ help during this phase. One of the saddest memories after his death was seeing his brand new brown Cole Hahn shoes in our closet. We had shopped together for them at Nordstrom perhaps two months before he died. Seeing those barely worn shoes brought me to tears many times as I knew he would never wear them again.
Looking at the soles of his other shoes and seeing the wear and tear of his life clearly reflected the kind of person Roy was. He walked with a particular gait because one leg was slightly shorter than the other. He often walked with his left hand in his pocket. His right shoe had a different wear pattern than the left. Noticing the wear patterns on his shoes reminded me of how unique Roy was.
He was a determined man with his eye on many different goals and his heart set on the completion of his beloved projects. When he died he had many plates in the air and was committed to the success of roughly five major projects. He had recently written a novel and had just presented it to several agents at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. He had received patents on a health bra designed to keep lymph moving and thus preventing breast cancer. He was looking for partners to take the bra to market. He was developing a sun screen product made from blueberries and was interfacing with researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara. He was collaborating on a major software project with a company based in Seattle. And in his extra time, he was fine tuning several patents that were in the beginning stages of development.
As I look back from today to 11 years ago, I see that the journey of letting go is sacred and complex. On the morning of his death, Roy was fully alive and planning for his future. In an instant, his life ended and his possessions, ideas, and dreams were left for me to handle. We the survivors are forced to decide on what belongings we want to keep and which we must let go. Sometimes there is fear in letting go as we worry that we will lose the memories of our beloved. This is a very understandable way of thinking in the beginning phases of grief. I can tell you the memories never leave us.
Paradoxically two things need to happen in order to move forward —we must let go of the physical belongings while at the same time learning to hold on to the emotional connection. I chose to not be home the day that St. Vincent de Paul arrived to pick up Roy’s belongings. My friend was there to oversee the wardrobes being loaded into the truck. She said the workers were delighted to receive such wonderful clothes and shoes for their male clients who would be looking for work.
What I have learned from writing this post is that the memories of Roy, his way of being, and his creative nature are a major part of my inner world. His possessions were let go of a long time ago. His projects were concluded. Yet his memory is fully alive in my heart and the hearts of so many people who loved him. To be remembered is a reflection of a life well lived. I think Roy would be grateful with the ways he is remembered.
I’ll write more about subsequent letting-go phases in future posts.