“The record of a generous life runs like a vine around the memory of our dead, and every sweet, unselfish act is now a perfumed flower.”

14 Oct

I will be here with my mother and her siblings through the weekend closing up this house and a cherished life.

Closing up a cherished life Jess says. I picture all too clearly the house I grew up in, the detritus of a lifetime strewn through. The things so tied to us which in the long term, really aren’t. Strings on trees, the arms of which are those of our families.

The slow movement into my future, and my old age, eventual, leaves me wondering what I will leave behind. Will the memories lag behind me like smoke, hovering around heads and choking the air? Or will I leave little, a dress here perhaps, a love note there, a grocery list from 2016 reminding myself I need more fibre. Will any of it matter?

Jess speaks simply of her grandparents with a certainty only love seems to provide. The knowledge that their lives were full up with what they needed to be full of. I crave for my future to contain this-the simplicity of a life’s work finished-the ability to sit back and watch, affected but quiet and softened, gleaming a little at the edges. Ready.

But the mention of delving into a life, your hands in the private places you’ve been told your entire life to leave be, fingers grasping their underthings, no privacy for the dead-the finality of it all leaves me breathless. I remember pawing through my mother’s panties after she died, through her things where her scent lay dormant and depleted. It felt ungentle to touch there. And then one day, it was all gone, and I was left with nothing more than an empty dresser and the memories of a life.

What meaning have any of us left behind us? My mother left me bravery, will. Jess’ Grandmother has left me with a message, a reminder. Enjoy, and create. Be in the arms of those who love and want us near. Remember you never know when the notes you never sent will need to be found. Bind yourself to the earth through the people you are linked to, irrevocably by time and place.

I am so very very sorry Jess.

3 Responses to ““The record of a generous life runs like a vine around the memory of our dead, and every sweet, unselfish act is now a perfumed flower.””

  1. bine October 15, 2007 at 2:53 pm #

    when my mother died, the job of cleaning out her desk and wardrobe fell to me. it just seemed sensible, my father couldn’t handle it at that time, or i felt he shouldn’t have to.
    i found a lot of stuff like jess writes about, little love notes, reminders, dried four-leaved clovers, doodles, souvenirs. some unsent letters to me and my dad, and to a friend. i felt uncertain if i should read them, if she hadn’t sent them she must have had a reason. but i was so hungry for anything that connected me to her after she was gone, i couldn’t resist it.
    her clothes still smelled so much of her. in every pocket i found her obligatory handkerchief and a piece of glucose. some coins, a shopping list. i kept a couple of clothes that fit me, but never wore them much. they kept feeling like her clothes, they never became mine.
    if often wonder if i would die today, who would clean out my stuff? what would they find, and what would they think? a dozen blue jay feathers in an air mail envelope. some dried leaves i picked up on my way home on my last day of school. letters. old diaries. plans for projects i never got around to start. will they be grateful to learn some things about me they didn’t know? or will they be tortured by the decision what to keep and what to throw away? i don’t know if i really want anyone to puzzle about that.

  2. Oh, The Joys October 15, 2007 at 7:09 pm #


    Thanks for writing this. It is hard for me to get back to normal. I am mad and sad – and everything I’m supposed to be right now I suppose, but no fun, for sure.

    Your writing always means a lot to me – it is always powerful.

    Also, thank you for your e-mail. It meant a lot to me. I am struggling.


  3. thordora October 16, 2007 at 10:09 am #

    You’re more than welcome. I can only imagine losing two people I cared about in such close quarters.

    Bine, I can’t help but be fascinated by the little things we leave behind-the stories they tell! The weighty feel of them in our hands-how one small thing can feel so much to one person, and just be a piece of junk to another…..it’s so incredible when you think about it.

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