If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that Gus and I are attempting some kind of epic garage organization. But this isn't your ordinary spring cleaning, it's an exercise that has me thinking about the power of going back to the same situation, but with a different heart.
Let me explain.
You see, my Aunt's garage is a great example. The contents are more like asymmetrical Tetris than they any Container Store storage solution. There are paper bags filled with more paper, countless skeins of yarn (including bright, traffic cone orange - explain that color choice..?), and non-descript boxes containing amusing treasures (like strangely undated canned herring..) as well as amazing treasures, like my parent's marriage certificate. And it's been this carefully stacked intimidating and pre-cariously balanced mountain for exactly a decade.
So how did it get this way? Well, it was approximately 10 years ago that my mom passed away. It was unexpected and at the time, she and I shared a little house. I couldn't bear to pack up her things after it happened - so my amazing family all gave their time and packed every box themselves. A lot of these boxes and various pieces of furniture from my childhood became the pile in the garage. And it stayed a pile until I was emotionally ready to deal with it and had the time to - when I moved back home to NC just a month ago.
And now, when it'd be an overwhelming physical task for my aunt, Gus and I can give of our hearts and our time to finally sort through everything. The whole experience of pouring over boxes and rediscovering things like a stuffed animal I always played with or realizing that I actually have both of my mom's diplomas, has been so transformative for me. Maybe it's about coming full circle, I don't know. But I love that I've come back to the same situation (deciding what to do with everything really) with different eyes and a changed heart. It's healed in some ways, but more than that - it's grown.
A Funeral and an Unveiling
I think it's no coincidence that this past weekend, we spent all day Saturday going through literally everything in the garage and then spent Sunday at my Great Uncle Mac's unveiling. Both of these experiences keep playing in my head.
An unveiling in Judaism is a ceremony typically performed 11 months after a loved one has passed away and their headstone at their gravesite is "unveiled." Last November, though Gus and I were living in Los Angeles, we happened to be in Fayetteville for my Great Uncle Mac's funeral. We were grateful to be there for family and very overwhelmed. Just a few weeks before, my grandmother had emergency surgery and was in very bad shape in ICU. We had originally been there for a wedding, but spent a lot of our weekend at the funeral and of course, at the hospital.
What a great gift it was being able to go to Mac's unveiling and to have my grandmother still with us, come through her traumatic battle and bright as ever. I had never been to an unveiling and in fact, remembered just then that I had refused to have one for my mom. I was concerned at the time that the purpose would to be to grieve again and that wasn't how I wanted to keep thinking about her. Going to Mac's on Sunday was eye-opening for me. Firstly, it brought together some of the people I love most in this world all in one place, including the Rabbi I had growing up.
But more than that, it was so amazing that a year after we lost Mac, everyone was so full of love and stories about him. I had expected this would be a service of mostly Hebrew, but instead, it was all of us in a circle, remembering this person who made a mark on us. His granddaughter Hannah set a wonderful tone when she first told everyone a story of how he taught her about selflessness by giving her and her sister two pennies he found in a parking lot. She keeps the penny as a reminder of that virtue and I was so moved by that.
This is the heart of what I've been thinking about with my mom, the garage, everything - that people stay with us, that they stay in our hearts, they make us better, and they live on every aspect of that.
Flowers and Re-Birth
The whole thing had me wishing I had the perspective back in 2004 to have an unveiling for my mom because I finally get the point 10 years later. But I think I've worked this out with having Barbara Day. So many people keep coming up to me, including this weekend, to tell me they did something in honor of her.
My cousin Sharon told me after the unveiling that when she read my post about Barbara Day, she immediately thought of a plant my mother gave her when she first moved to Fayetteville 20 years ago. Mom gave her a plant to welcome her and told her how to grow it. It's grown and grown and Sharon even moved it with her when she switched homes. She told me all this to say that when Gus and I land in a place with a yard, she's going to give me a cutting from the plant to start my own.
Wow. Yeah, that's kind of amazing.
After all these experiences, and being in our 2nd year of marriage, and coming back to NC after all this time, etc. etc. - my heart is so full with the goodness of coming back to things again. I think all of these things are continually showing me the power of perspective and the grace of time. These disparate things like epic garage dust, a ceremony at a gravesite, and a prolific plant are all strong in that they remind me that there are always ways to see things differently and with new eyes.
That you can, in fact, go home again and it's a home made all the better with that perspective.