That Which Remains

There have been many small things to take care of this summer and I have done pretty well with fulfilling my list. Much cleaning and organizing has taken place. To set the stage for this post, we still have Susanna’s things, close to the way she left them. There is no reason to let go earlier than we want to, and we do not want to. I sense there was an old world way of grieving in which the family would strip away everything visible and stop talking about a child who died. I may be wrong but I sense it. For me, coming home to a house devoid of Susanna would be as shocking as for any parent coming home to their living child erased. She is not gone to me.

I have a different relationship to physical things now. Physical bodies are not our whole selves. Physical items seem markers of events and people and places visited. Depending on how many things you hold, you go over them time and again to remember. So different today, this age beyond paper or CDs or flash drives. Pictures of Susanna exist in clouds and I can see them or share them anywhere in the world. The handful of children I knew who died in our youth left only photos printed at drugstores, solely replaceable by strips of negatives.

I have sorted through a lot which I could not touch last summer. It was a housecleaning for myself and my family, a family of four. We have spaces for each of us. Three of us have new clothes and items we use. One of us has shoes in a bigger size than last year. One of us has been the inspiration behind the bags of pink wristbands for a brain aneurysm benefit walk, as well as bushels of beautiful angels in silver and china given to us a Christmastime. I have dusted and steam cleaned, decisions taken one thing at a time.

This week I might change our television provider. I have postponed this for a while. It would save money but I would no longer open the DVR list to see Peppa Pig, or Paw Patrol or any of the shows we used to watch when we all were on earth together. The programs can be found in clouds but I want them to be here. Like my daughter should be. I want to see the words on the screen, press play and be sitting with Susanna, singing “Peace and harmony, around the world….” In British accents, of which hers was far superior.

I will clean my freezer today. It is frost-free so does not need to be unplugged with drip pans underneath, as was done when I was young. I will wipe it out and rearrange. I will save Susanna’s snow people in plastic bags, for as long as I can, as well as a box of her favorite hash browns (we will not eat them). We do not need to throw out things which are frozen. Frozen, by the way, is in an account where we can access it if we want. I believe Susanna can see it regardless in her dimension.

When people leave this life, they exist tenuously in what is left behind. Maybe you have a copy of your grandparents’ marriage certificate, or a family bible. Maybe you have a lock of hair or a piece of jewelry. These things can help someone live on. But I will tell you something I know as a woman who has been living in two worlds for sixteen months. If you add up all of your things, put them in a pile and combine them with the things of everyone you know, the love and energy contained in them will be a miniscule pittance compared to what is waiting on the other side even the first second you get there. It is in all of us to take a glimpse whenever we want.

This is a beautiful poem by Patrick Phillips. A few months ago my neighbor sent it to me after reading it on the subway, and last night I saw it there myself.

subway photo

By trishfreer

Mother, writer, artist and teacher grappling with grief and loss.

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