At the End

I think the elderly lady who lives across the street from us has died.

I don’t know her name. We used to wave to her when we were both on our porches. She didn’t speak very much English, but I could tell she always liked to see how E. was growing.

In the last year we saw that she was getting frailer. She had a new, live-in caregiver. I would see them out in the neighbourhood, especially when E. and I were on our way to swimming.

We haven’t seen her for a while.

Yesterday a big skip (dumpster to those of you who don’t have Australian husbands influencing your vocabulary) was dropped off in front of their house.

Today the live-in caregiver and a man I don’t recognize (possibly the son-in-law, maybe a son) have spent the entire morning throwing what sometimes seems to be the entire contents of the house into the skip.

Piles of old phonebooks.

Paintings.

Chairs.

Dishes.

I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know the situation. I don’t know what sort of pressures they’re under, or how they’re feeling, so this next sentence is said without judgment. It about the situation that faces us all, rather than their own particular response to it.

The waste is horrifying.

E. was fascinated with the skip and its contents, so we spent much of the morning watching.

I found myself thinking of alternatives with almost every load.

Why weren’t the phone books put in the recycling?

Couldn’t those dishes go to a homeless shelter? I know the church down the street with an Open Door program was looking for similar items just a month or so ago.

I winced when I heard them smash against the bottom of the skip.

Again, I don’t know why they are doing what they are doing. Maybe something went horribly wrong in the house and those items are irreparably damaged. Maybe they are in a huge rush to get the house on the market before the spring buying frenzy wears off.

But it got me to thinking about our house, and those of our parents, and those of our grandparents.

There is just so.much.stuff.

And maybe we’ll move to a smaller apartment before the end comes, and we’ll have the chance to downsize and divest and make good use of things while still cognizant of our surroundings.

Then again, maybe we won’t.

I don’t want to saddle E. with a houseful. I have a book waiting for me at the library, Plum Johnson’s memoir, They Left Us Everything, about precisely that: having to clear out an entire house after the death of her last parent.

I don’t want that for E.

I don’t want that for ME with my own parents.

But I hope, if it does, I can take the time it takes to do a good job. To recycle what I can, donate what can be used by others. Throw out as little as possible.

I want the last touch of my parents and grandparents on this earth to be light.

And I hope, when the time comes for E., that I remained cognizant enough to make a list of contact numbers for the organizations that could make use of our stuff and that I put that list near our wills.

In the meantime, I’ll try to amass less stuff in the first place.

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5 Comments

Filed under Family, Grief, Loss

5 responses to “At the End

  1. I understand your feelings. I’ve seen this happen too many times. You’re right. It is such a waste. I think there is a lesson here for us all.

    I’m trying to downsize my life for just the same reasons you mentioned – I don’t want to be a burden to those who are left behind.

  2. Aww I love this! I worry about when my and DH’s parents die, both have households full of stuff. Organizing all of the info about donations beforehand is a great idea.

    And my kids won’t have to worry about my stuff, I throw things out constantly and don’t keep anything. DH keeps EVERYTHING. Everytime he places some ugly keepsake on a shelf I lovingly say, “I’m going to throw that out when you die.”. Lol

  3. I share your feelings as well — the horror over the waste, and the uneasy feeling that this will be me if I don’t start paring things down a bit. Whenever people bring up the issue of too much stuff, I always say, “Why do you think I haven’t moved in 25 years??” And I’m only half kidding. I’ve been gradually tackling small projects since I lost my job. In the next few months, I have resolved to downsize & reorganize our vast book collection. 😦 It will hurt like hell because I love my books, but it has to be done, and if we ever move into a condo, which is something we have been discussing more lately, we will not be able to keep them all.

    My parents are also making noises about downsizing. My house is nothing compared to theirs when it comes to clutter. (Of course, part of their clutter is also mine — still lots of stuff there from my childhood & school days, yikes!) The thing is, so many baby boomers are downsizing these days & trying to get rid of their stuff — all at once. So there is a glut of used furniture, pianos, books, china & silver on the market. Even if they try to pass stuff on to their kids, they don’t want it. My aunt is moving into a seniors home and is sad because none of her kids wants her dining room set or fine crystal. People just don’t use stuff like that as much as they once did (if they ever did). I guess we all need to start thinking more before we buy.

  4. Turia

    Loribeth, books are my absolute weakness. I am hopeless at purging them, and Q. won’t even try with his. Plus, since we’re both academics, we have all the scholarly books in our house as well as the fun ones. I have at least mostly stopped buying new ones, but clearing the shelves is torturous for me.

    I have cleared myself out completely from my parents’ house! But that just means now it’s in my house…

  5. Pingback: Books Read: April 2015 | Res Cogitatae

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