We just moved to a new house. A new house my daughter has never lived in, and never will. We left an old house where she lived her entire four short years. A house where she spent countless hours playing, eating, sleeping, dressing up, making mischief, making us laugh…the list goes on. But it was also the house where she died. It was the house seared in our memories on that horrible day where our lives changed forever in a way we wish we could just figure out how to undo. As I prepared to move, I had to face a lot of memories and choices.
This fall will mark three years since her death. Until this year, I kept everything my daughter had touched, wore, played with, etc. Some were kept in bins kept under my bed or in closets. Some were displayed prominently. Some were just left as they were before she died. But as I packed, I was faced with the question of what to do with these things? Do I keep her things until I’m dead and then let my other kids deal with the question of what to do? Do I get rid of all of it, knowing that these are just things and none of it will bring her back?
The truth is, they are just things – but they are things that can have significant memories attached to them. Some more than others. For example, a pair of plain pants she wore a handful of times are just pants. But the dresses or shirts she loved and wore over and over are special. So are the clothes that have very specific memories attached to them or are featured in treasured photographs. The toys she barely played with are just toys, but the toys and books and puzzles that occupied her for hours day after day are ones that meant something to her, and mean something to me as well. So I came to terms with the reality of keeping what still held precious memories for me, and donating the rest.
Packing the house also brought with it a mix of anticipation and anxiety. I didn’t know what “new” things of hers I would come across as I pulled out neglected boxes or cleaned out long forgotten drawers. Would finding these things bring floods of emotion and make me cry, or would finding something new that she created – such as a drawing – lead me to a new treasure that I can cherish forever? Finding hair from her first haircut took my breath away and turned my stomach into knots. How could I have been so careless as to keep it in a random place where it could have easily been thrown away? Finding her faded, broken sunglasses in the yard brought back memories of her wearing them upside-down and a cute photograph of us together. I kept the hair, of course, but in the end let go of the broken sunglasses. My memories are enough.
Moving to a new house has been a lot of work. Do I miss the old house? No. Will I keep the memories? Yes. We may have “moved on” without our daughter, but we will never move on from our memories of her.
Written by Maria Kubitz