It’s strange the random moments in life that sneak up and paralyze you emotionally. Last week I was cleaning out my seven-year-old’s closet to change his clothes to the next size. They kept falling off of the hangers and it dawned on me that he had finally outgrown the kiddie sized hangers. It was one of those things I wasn’t anticipating or thinking about and for some reason it just hit me really hard. My first born child; my baby boy is growing up. It was a small milestone but one that I took to heart, probably more so because I’m in an emotional place in life.
A week later, ironically, we also cleaned out my dads closet. He has only been gone for three months so the emotions are still pretty raw. I knew it would be hard and it seemed like every item was a reminder of a certain memory; a moment in time, a special occasion or just the goofy shirts he wore every day. It was really an emotionally taxing task which is why my mom didn’t want to do it alone. She also wanted to make sure she didn’t get rid of anything we wanted.
When we were going through these things we started to make a few piles. There’s the pile of things that for sure I don’t want and have no emotional attachment or connection. Then there are the things that I had to have and can’t let go of like the tie he wore at my wedding, the awesome 70’s snow pants that match the jacket I took or the sailing t-shirt be bought on our trip to Cancun when we took a sail together. Then there are others that are somewhere in the middle where I remember him wearing them and they make my heart hurt to look at but I don’t have a specific emotional attachment to. Those go in the maybe pile to re-sort through again at the end. Then there are the bad memories. The shoes that were a size too big because his feet were so swollen the last year. The shirt that’s cut up the middle in the back to make it easier to dress him in his last days. The loose fitting pants for his frail, withered body. The things that were memories but ones that hurt in a bad way.
By the end I was emotionally drained and all of the empty hangers just dangling in the closet pretty much represented exactly how I felt inside. Something is missing. Something that belongs there is now gone. The emptiness is palpable. Hangers are not something I would’ve ever put any emotional stock in before now. I was looking at all of them wondering, do they go in the boxes with the clothes? Do we just throw them away? Then the practical side of me remembered that I actually need new hangers for a very specific reason; another little ache in my heart. So I asked my mom if I could take them and I put them in my pile of things to take. It gave me a small measure of comfort to know that they would be in my home, holding my little ones clothes; my little one that’s not so little anymore.
Life goes on. My dad is gone and my babies are growing up. It’s hard to know when to hang on and when to let, what to keep and what to throw away, but I’m glad I have this literal representation of something my dad left behind, no longer empty, serving a purpose again and taking space in my home and heart.
And just like that the sting slightly lessens as peace takes over and healing begins.
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