It?s been nine months when we said goodbye to each other as you made the transition into eternity. This morning I decided that it was time to remove what was left behind. Each day I?ve opened the closet and smelling your scent from the clothes still hanging there. Suits for church, casual clothes worn to work daily, shoes shiny and yes, a pair that needs a coat of polish. Should I polish them for you? No. You?ve left them behind.

What to do with all these jeans and sweatshirts. How you loved to come home and change into these grubs. Despite being a chemistry instructor, you really had a heart for the earth and this family farm you grew up on. Your gardens of vegetables fed a lot of people here.

Oh yes, and summer time haying season. You would take the John Deere and cut the hay. Two hay rows later, I was on the Co-op with the hay conditioner. Remember the dead skunk that went through the conditioner? You had the biggest grin on your face when you saw me condition that smelly creature. I got you later when it was baled up?it stayed on the field if I recall.

This old red sweatshirt. Tracy loved the game you played with her. You were the ?red giant? and she was Voosh-ka-noosh-ka! Both of the kids carry that creative name and game playing gene of yours. ?C-Sanish?, she?d yell to make the Red Giant disappear.

What?s this? Oh my word, it?s the suit you wore when we got married 17 years ago. Actually, it?s a bit snug now. I was so proud that day with you wearing your black suit, angel white shirt, accented by a gray and black stripped tie. You smiled as I came down the aisle. Your eyes, with those long lashes, encouraged the calming of my beating heart.

I don?t have the heart to just stuff these things into a bag; each shirt I carefully fold as if you?ll need them tomorrow. You never liked this brown suit. It?s almost like new from so little use. Someone will probably like it now. Oh my, there?s your leather jacket. How can I let that go? You?ve worn this jacket since we dated. Is it OK for me to leave this behind? I?ll put it aside for now with the wedding suit.

Quickly now, get through this. I can?t attach a memory to each piece here, I have so much more to go through that you couldn?t take with you. Your dresser is still full. This is easier now, somehow underwear and socks lack an emotional attachment.

Oh! I remember these. I bought them for you on Valentine?s Day. Briefs decorated with valentines! Of course, to get you to wear them I had to put ALL of your underwear in the washer on the soak cycle. You were so surprised when you opened the drawer and valentine briefs were the only pair waiting to be worn. That was pay back for the firecracker scare! Wasn?t it fun to play like this? So many silly games and tricks we shared. Some thought we were worse than the kids with the antics we could think up.

Your jewelry box holds little treasures. Chris will get the cufflinks and the tie clasp he always like to hold for you when you put on your tie. I?m giving Tracy your wedding ring after I can let it leave my own middle finger. She?s too little now anyway.

What?s this? I didn?t know you still had this picture of me. I gave it to you so long ago it seems. Here?s your leather wallet tooled with a trout arched as if coming out of the water. Everyone knows you loved to fish, and the best at the sport in our area.

What have you left behind in this old wallet of yours? Twenty dollar bill, pictures of the kids, one of me, almost all of your drivers licenses, of course your fishing and hunting licenses. Here?s your social security card, I?ll need that for the insurance and social security office. I really dread to do that now. I guess it means I have to accept the reality of it all.

They say that you leave everything behind. Not quite true. What is left are these tangible things like I?m packing up to give away and to save. You?ve left behind memories for the kids and I.

What you?ve taken with you is the essence of your life. It?s true, I feel I know where you?ve gone. I watched you look up to the corner of your hospital room and stretch your arms out to the angel taking you beyond this realm of life. Your soul left so easily, but not without saying, ?I love you Maralene.?

(It is 25 years since my husband died, I was 34 and my son was 9, my daughter 7. It took me the nine months after his death to make the next transition in moving my life forward. Today my son is a civil engineer and my daughter a occupational therapist; each have two children making me a grandparent of 3 boys between the ages of 12 & 8, and a granddaughter of 4. Life has continued to be exciting, and memories are now the legacy for the future.)

(c) revised Oct 2006 Maralene Strom

Maralene Strom is a speaker and author who teaches on topics dealing with grief and recorvery — let her help you discover your life’s meaning as you journey now and into your future. Visit to receive her newsletter.

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