One thing nobody ever tells you about is the amount of business involved when someone dies. Five minutes after you get the news, while you're still sitting in a hard hospital chair all frozen with disbelief, people start wanting you to sign things and make decisions. Which mortuary should we notify? Will you be doing organ donation? Here's a bag full of clothes and jewelry to take home. The business goes on and on, like a jungle you have to hack your way through, and every time you think you're finished, another bit crops up.
In the beginning, I thought I'd be done with the business part of things when the funeral process was over. It took forever because it was a holiday weekend and they couldn't order a casket and we had to go outside our parish (the same church that was rude about our wedding was rude again about the funeral, surprise surprise) and the crematorium was overbooked and the priest was busy. With all that, it was nearly two weeks from the day P died until the day we interred his ashes, and afterward, I thought, "Okay, now it's over."
But it wasn't over, because then a month later we moved and I had to go through all of his things and box them up and decide what to keep (nearly everything) and what to get rid of (hardly anything). And then we got to the new place and I thought "Now it is definitely, absolutely over." Only we couldn't get the plaque for the niche straightened out and I had to take all the money out of P's bank account and pay his car registration and tell people who called for him that he had died, and it still wasn't over, damn it.
So all that got resolved and we got through the holidays, and I thought, "It's been six months and it's got to be over." Except then I had to file the taxes and tick the little box that said P had died in 2006 and list myself as a "qualifying widow," and then G's pediatrician didn't know and I had to tell her. And today is the eight-month anniversary of P's death, and I just realized that two of my dresser drawers are still full of his socks and underwear. I'm so used to them being his drawers that it never occurred to me to open them or empty them or put anything of my own inside. So now I have to decide: do I hang on to thirty pairs of socks, or do I let them go?
Can I let them go?
Letting go is at the bottom of this process, this business of wrapping up all the loose ends. You can't do it all at once and be done, no matter how much you might wish to. First you let go of the physical part, the body, and that isn't as difficult as you might think, because it's so clear that the body is not the man. But then you have to let go of all the things that tied that person to life, and that's much, much harder. I would say I've had only limited success in that area: I forced myself to cancel the cell phone and send back the DVR box and notify Social Security, but the cable is still in P's name and I haven't closed our joint checking account. Worse, I've still got the last two DVDs he ordered from Netflix. They came in the mail the Friday before he died; he never had a chance to watch them, and I can't bring myself to send them back, even though every month I keep them costs me money.
Then after that comes letting go of objects, and there I've failed completely. I have the clothes P was wearing when he died and the sheets that were on the bed, all neatly packed up and sealed in a box. I don't take them out and look at them, but I have them. I have his toothbrush. I have his razor. I have scraps of paper with his writing on them. How can I let go of those things? I can't even let go of possessions of my own that I had while he was still alive. It's especially hard with clothes: I go to throw something away, and I remember that P was with me when I bought it, or that he liked (or didn't like) how it looked on me, and I put it back in the closet. It's a part of the business I can't finish, even though I know that this will never be over until I do.
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