My father-in-law’s sudden passing has caused us to be temporarily situated in a golf and beach community in South Carolina. I’d love to share that we’ve been gallivanting about, via golf cart, wearing funny pants, and attempting to be under par, but we’ve not. I’d, also, like to tell you about sand between my toes and shells in my beach pail, but I can’t write about that either. We’ve been doing the sad task that many 50-somethings must do after their last parent passes; settling an estate.
My husband is the only surviving sibling, so the two of us have been handling all arrangements, attending to all legal matters, and sorting through the home that is proving to be a time machine into my husband’s past. I’ve seen has birth announcement, hand written by my mother-in-law 58 years ago. I’ve read a letter from his sixth grade teacher, telling of his kindness and brilliance. I’ve held the picture that won him a beautiful baby contest; a story my mother-in-law often referenced when bragging about how good looking her son was–and still is!
Though this task is in its beginning stages, I’ve sorted through what feels like a million papers and boxed up a plethora of things for donations, sale, and haul away. In spite of the sadness, there’s been a measure of joy in getting to know another side of my in-laws. I’ve read ancient letters from friends, throughout the years, who complimented their ability to laugh and find fun in nearly every situation. I’ve viewed photos of them in their late teens through their early 80s, taken at the various homes they lived in and places all around the world that they visited. No matter the scenery, their smile and their loving gaze was a constant. I’ve shuffled through business plans and product prototypes to discover that they were brave risk-takers. I’ve held my mother-in-law’s wild costume jewelry earrings from the sixties up to my own ears and tried to imagine the crazy parties that she may have wore them to in her younger years.
Oddly, there is a healing in this unavoidable process and a deeper wisdom. In the end, there are things that remain that will tell our stories; most are simple pieces of paper with words or pictures marking milestones, successes, failures, events and memories. There are other things, silly things, like favorite sweaters and worn-out slippers, or eye glasses near a favorite book, or even half eaten bags of potato chips that remind us that we’re all so damned human and habitual.
Love the people you’re blessed to have in your life and reach out to those around you.
We may be down here for another week or so, tying up loose ends before we head back to the cold weather of West Virginia. One of the many silver linings of this entire trip has been enjoying weather in the 70s in February. I wish I could ship some of the sunshine to my northeastern blogging buddies!
As for my disappearance from WP lately, please don’t give up on me! I plan to reappear as things settle down. Hope everyone is doing well. 🙂