Reflections on the Possessions of the Deceased   2 comments

I have helped to clean out two apartments of deceased people since the middle of August.

Last August, in Americus, Georgia, I did much of the cleaning out of the apartment of my maternal grandmother, Barbara Futch, who died at the age of 89 years.  My grandmother was aware that she was leaving much–especially clothing, as well as tubes and bottles of various creams and pills–for others to go through.  However, she lacked the energy level to dispose of more of it than she did.

I knew Bonny Thomas for over a decade.  I also understood that she had mental illnesses.  Bonny, under the influence of those illnesses, became the fifth victim of a police-involved shooting in Athens-Clarke County, since March 2019.  I also knew a compassionate, vivacious woman who had a whimsical side and enjoyed watching films noir with me as we ate pizza and drank coke, and who liked to watch Columbo episodes with me as we ate Hamburger Helper.  When she died, on October 14, one pillar of my world collapsed.

Yesterday, a few members (just enough to be about right–not too few, not too many) of my parish and I emptied Bonny’s apartment.  (Her family had taken the last of what they wanted a few days prior.)  Bonny had died, never to enter her apartment or mine again, but her possessions remained.  Most of them have gone to benefit a local charity that helps battered women.

Life is short and precious.  Much of it consists of that which is intangible, which is more important that the majority of that which is tangible.  Nevertheless, packing up and deciding what to do with the possessions of the deceased is an uncomfortable task.  It is also a tangible reminder of that person’s departure.  Completing that task can simultaneously be comforting and sad.  On one hand, the task is done; one can move on from no-longer unfinished business now.  Yet the emotions of loss can come to the fore.

I understand the Roman Catholic fixation on relics of saints.  After all, I keep relics of friends and relatives.  I have two chests and one tall bookcase full of photographs, school annuals, documents, books, et cetera.  That which is tangible, despite being less important than that which is intangible, has power.  The deceased have moved on, but an object one can hold has sentimental value.   Now my archives include relics of Bonny Thomas.  But if I could have her back, I would, of course.

One day (not any time soon, I hope; I love life) my turn to be the deceased will come.  Others will have the responsibility of disposing of my worldly possessions.  I am preparing for that day, with the intention that their task will require just a few hours–the more the helping hands, the fewer the hours.  I live comfortably in about 600 square feet.  My abode has relatively large empty areas in it.  Yet I review my possessions periodically and ask if I should donate to a thrift store or give to a person.  After all, they should be possessions; they should not possess me.  I do not want them to become a burden to anyone, including me.





2 responses to “Reflections on the Possessions of the Deceased

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  1. Such a heartfelt post. It is always a difficult task…one that I am unable to do without a lot of tears! Sending my sympathy.

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