As seen in the Dayton Daily News on May 5, 2018.
Growing up, I remember my mother always keeping our home very streamlined. She was forever on watch for things we could donate to make room for what we needed.
Towards the end of her life, she fell victim to colon cancer. As her condition progressed, she came to live with us so I could care for her. Her health continued to deteriorate to the point where we knew she would never be able to live in her home again.
One day, she asked me if we could go to her home and begin the process of downsizing her possessions.
I gathered up my supplies, and we set out for her home. As she sat in her wheelchair deciding what to keep from her drawers and closets, I began weeping silently behind her.
I help people downsize as my career. I help manage their emotions as we go through their belongings, but surprisingly I fell victim to my emotions as I was sorting through my mother’s things. I wanted to get through the process as quickly as possible to avoid my pain, but I couldn’t rush my mother. She needed me to be patient as she looked through her things.
Suddenly my very practical mother, who for her entire life let go of things the minute they weren’t needed, had now decided to push me to the limits of my emotional strength by being impractical with some items she was keeping.
I remember one bedroom drawer in particular that made me incredibly sad. When I opened it, I saw all of her girdles and thought, “This is easy. Those can all be tossed.” Instead my mother said, “Defiantly keep those, I might need them someday.”
Let me take a minute to fill you in on some facts. My mother was 80, terminally ill and had a gaping incision down her stomach that would take very long time to heal. The girdles appeared to be three sizes too small for her. They were so stiff they looked like something used for torturing the enemy. They were quite frayed because the stores stopped selling them decades earlier, and she couldn’t replace them.
I was exhausted and an emotional mess. I felt pressured because we needed to sell her home so my siblings could stop taking care of it in her absence.
I wanted to say, “Are you freaking kidding me? You will never be able to wear these again!” Instead, I told her I needed to go to the bathroom. Behind the closed door, I silently cried. Her prognosis was terminal, yet she held on to the very slim chance that a miracle would happen.
I gained my composure and came back to her bedroom. I left the girdles where they were then moved on to the next drawer.
My mother passed away just a few weeks later. I couldn’t return to her home to help my siblings clean it out. I couldn’t face the pain of seeing the drawer of hope I would find in her bedroom.
If you are helping your parent(s) downsize, please be compassionate and find all the patience you can muster. I know this can be difficult, but it may be the last gift you give them.