Monday, December 3, 2007

The bustle in a house

I'm pretty tired of death. I'm also pretty tired of the paperwork that inevitably seems to accompany every aspect of life... and death.

I'm tired of closing estates of the people I loved most. My father, my mother, and my husband - in the span of little over two years. I'm getting to be too damned good at it.

I'm tired of receiving mail addressed to The Estate of the Late [insert relevant name here].

I'm tired of going through personal things, trying to decide what to do with them, where they should be sent, to whom they should be given.

I'm tired of boxing up the remnants of my loved ones lives.

Because in the end that seems to be all that's left of anyone's life - one or two boxes of odds and ends, those incredibly personal things that have no monetary value or practical use: photo albums; love letters; awards & medals; sentimental mementos whose stories are now lost forever.

The responsibility of putting away someone's life is so underestimated. Yes, we live on in the hearts and memories of our loved ones and, perhaps, here and there in public documents. But what of those most intimate and personal touchstones? What do we do with them? Remember what happened to Rosebud?

I always feel so sad when I come across loose photos and postcards in antique shops. They should be with their families, people who care about their stories and are linked to them through time.

Many years ago I read a beautiful poem by Emily Dickinson that has always remained with me:
    The bustle in a house
    The morning after death
    Is solemnest of industries
    Enacted upon earth, -

    The sweeping up the heart,
    And putting love away
    We shall not want to use again
    Until eternity.

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