Sunday, April 20, 2008

Clothes of Dad's I want to keep

Rachelle's mom, a widow of three weeks, has been doing the excruciating work of sorting through her husband's things--keeping this, giving away that. Some in her place wait months, years or a lifetime before putting themselves through this.

Not Evonne. Never one to procrastinate unsavory tasks, she sees a job, and whether or not she knows how to do it, she gets it done. As with the rest of the recurring nightmare that is grief, there is no way around this but through it. So true to form, Evonne has braved her way into the closets, sheds, cupboards and drawers of the life she shared with Don and wept good-byes to much of the stuff her soul mate owned.

The other day, before going to Goodwill, she brought over a pile of clothes she thought I might use. It was sad to see them spread there on the couch, like the disembodied plumage of a fallen bird, never again to be worn by their rightful owner. I felt guilty to be rifling through them, guilty to be profiting from Don's death when I accepted something, guilty to say "no" to the many things I didn't want. Rationally, I knew it was just a fact of life, of death. Some of our things will outlive our bodies. What else would I have done with them--have them mummified for use in the hereafter?

I kept a handful of garments: a fine medium-weight Helly Hanson jacket that his son had given him, a dark long-sleeve rugby shirt, and one other thing, I forget what. Mostly, I am trying to empty my closet, keeping only what I know I'll wear. Neither Evonne, Rachelle nor I are very sentimental about belongings anyway.

The treasures I covet are the things Don did to raise a daughter as extraordinary as Rachelle. If these things were garments, I would fight like a vulture to make them my own. As with the pile of his shirts, pants, sweaters and coats draped lifelessly on my sofa, I will respectfully decline a fair amount of his parental clothing. (If he'd been a perfect father, he might have raised a daughter too pristine to marry me.) But from his wardrobe of father finery, here is what I hope to don as I raise his granddaughters:
  • Playfulness - Don loved games, sports, adventures, travels, and all manner of play with the ones he loved most. If something practical needed done, Evonne was probably the one who did it. But when Rachelle wanted to play, she was Daddy's girl.
  • Faith - Don believed in the power of God, in the hugeness of God. Whatever his failings, he never modeled for his kids a small God.
  • Generous listening - Don loved to share, but shone best when he listened to the sharing of others. As pastor, innkeeper and father, he celebrated people and heard the best in them. I can't think of a better gift to give my own children.
  • Friendship - Rachelle learned from her dad the power of small groups, which he facilitated at most of the churches where he served. Her commitment to building small groups of friends sharing the journey together has paved the way for me to have the most meaningful friendships in my life, most of which I never would have bothered creating without her. I want to instill in my daughters a passion for nurturing deeply positive friendships that feed their life of faith.
Do I want every item in his wardrobe? Of course not.

But Goodwill, eat your heart out. By God's grace, you won't get your hands on those four.


Thanks, Don, for sharing these choice Daddy-duds. I hope you sensed during your life what beautiful things you bequeathed to your children. I'll try to wear them well for mine.


Carlindo & Jeni-Joy said...

What a lot of grieving your family is facing all at once. Please know, you're in our hearts and prayers. It's not an easy journey. Please send hugs to the girls. Much love to you all!

MoziEsmé said...

One of those things I think about occasionally is what people would think of my earthly collection if I died today - a good incentive to declutter. Thanks for the reminder that it's not the "stuff" that matters.

And thanks for the tip on getting some more potent drugs!

No connection between Esmé and Esmeralda, though you're not the first to ask. I actually did write about the name in a very early post:

I had a couple of rules in picking a name - it couldn't be on the top 100 list, it couldn't be the name of someone I knew, and it had to have a good meaning. In addition to not being a playground hazard, like "Dorcas," or having bad initials.

I gave hubby free latitude on the middle name, though, and he picked my middle name because he wants ammunition to name a boy after himself someday, if I could ever convince him to have another!