This is something I wrote a couple of years ago. The holy relic shirt still resides in a bag hanging in my mud porch. I'm still dismantling. Lord, never let it end.
It has been 1 year, 1 month, 20 days, 16 hours, and 24 minutes since my husband died and still I am dismantling the things he put together, the things he touched, the edifices he erected around him. When a person dies suddenly, the stuff they have left behind is not sucked into the vortex created by their vacuum-like absence. It remains. It remains exactly AS IF they never left. It is for you, the “next of kin” to dismantle it… to make the decisions of what stays and what goes, what is sacred enough to become part of the permanent shrine and what must be broken out of the matrix that was his world.
Just this morning, I finally washed a cup of his from work. He had drunk all the coffee out of it, so there was only a residue and the invisible stamp of his lips. I had kept this cup (and a spoon, fork and knife he kept at work in a Ziploc bag) by my desk at home, not knowing exactly what to do with them.
I have another confession to make. I have a dirty shirt of his in a bag. This shirt was his lawn mowing shirt and instead of washing it every time, he kept it in a plastic bag in our mud porch. The shirt has lost all its scent but it reminds me of his substance, his physical presence, his manly sense of order in which washing a shirt used only for dirty work was unnecessary.
Most people will say, “Wash them, you silly fool. That’s what you do with them… and not over a year later.” Yes, but when will he drink from another cup again. When will he mow our lawn or sweat in a shirt or make a decision about how best to store work clothes. When will I be able to wash his dirty cup again? I have dismantled an entire activity of his that will never repeat.
This is exactly why dismantling my husband’s life is difficult. Every act, every doodle on a piece of paper, every wonderfully dirty shirt is sacred. They are sacred because they can never be again. Dismantling a loved one is painful. Yet I do not want to reach the end.
And what of me? How can I be trusted to make the choices about the parts of me that he touched? I am inextricably enmeshed in this matrix also and I do not know how or even if I want to dismantle the part of me that is him and the part of me that is me. But if I remain entwined with his remains, for the person of my husband has gone on and is no longer concerned with matrices and edifices, what of me will be left for anyone else? Will I not be living among the dead, dying among the living?