It has been just over 2 years ...
Two years since my mom left my house for good - to move to Rehab and then to Assisted Living.
While mom lived here, she had a small suite of rooms: a private bathroom, a bedroom and a den. She squeezed the stuff of her life into those rooms. She was happy to do so because she had the things that mattered to her - and the security of living with family. She had her "stuff" ... and everyone needs their stuff.
During her 5 years with me her stuff remained constant - never growing, never shrinking. She wasn't a spender and really needed little. But other elements of her life shrunk and declined. Some loss of independence, reduced ability to manage her small responsibilities, loss of driving, and finally declining health. Eventually she even lost her ability to live with family.
And what of her stuff ...
Well I kept all her stuff just as she left it in her rooms for awhile.
Eight months after she moved, I decided to sort through her belongings and repackage them so that they fit snuggly into her bedroom. It was time to reclaim the den for our use. I downsized for her: for example she wouldn't need a Forman Grill, or craft supplies that her arthritic hands no longer could manage, or that mountain of papers she tucked away like a squirrel hiding nuts. The downsizing was hard because it was an acceptance ... she would not be returning. Still I kept her bedroom unchanged. I couldn't seem to let that go.
After a year I removed the Chair Lift off the stairs. It was a trip hazard for my husband who has limited vision ... and with mom not here, it served no purpose. That was another small heart ache for me.
Now on the 2nd Anniversary of her life in Assisted Living - I decided to reclaim her bedroom. Fortunately we have space in the lower level of our house to store her things. But they no long reside in her room. Her room is no longer "her room." I have spent several nights boxing up her stuff and carrying it downstairs. While that act has made me sad, it is not the worst. Her total belongings have reduced to the size of one closet - exactly one closet of "stuff" left from a long life. Her bedroom furniture will remain. I downsized and packed away small stuff but not big stuff.
I know this sadness is mine alone. Others may not understand my feelings. Even mom wouldn't understand because she neither wants nor remembers any of these things. In fact, the few things I brought to her Assisted Living room she did not want displayed. It was like she had no plans to put down roots in that place. Her roots were in my home and now they are in boxes.
The "stuff" of life can bring joy or sadness - even if the stuff isn't yours.
So I am fighting to focus on those things that aren't "stuff." Her Thanksgiving was filled with family - not things in boxes. I fight those sad feelings since I can't control this decline and loss. It is just a normal part of life. I focus on "being there" for her.
Here she is with her family on Thanksgiving when we all gathered together to watch the parades and to share a Turkey Meal. It was not home but she really enjoyed the visit.
My home will always be your home despite the fact your legs will never carry you into it again. You will always belong within the loving arms of your family. Your stuff is just stuff. Your real achievements are the great family you built and supported over the years. You are much loved. There is nothing else that matters.
Daughter and Caregiver