Note: This post was originally shared on my “widowhood” blog, “Frances 3.0: Still in Beta”.
I have a house full of stuff. Stuff I accumulated before I ever met Paul. Stuff Paul accumulated before he ever met me. Stuff we accumulated together. It’s funny, the stuff I accumulated before meeting Paul doesn’t seem important anymore. It’s his stuff and our stuff that has my mind consumed.
I know the value of my belongings – both in monetary and emotional terms. I know what I can throw away without a thought; I know what means the world to me; I know what would be important to someone else.
I know the value of our belongings, too. I know the hows, whys, and wheres of each item. I know the story behind them. And I relish the memories attached to them.
But his stuff? That’s where it gets difficult. Before Paul made the move across to America, he went through all of his stuff and got rid of much of it. I know it was hard for him, and I urged him not to. I told him I would rather him ship everything overseas than risk that he would regret getting rid of something later. (He did regret getting rid of some of his books – and I resisted saying “I told you so”.) So in the end, the few boxes that Paul brought with him were his most treasured possessions. He brought the things that were dearest to him; the things that he just couldn’t bear to be without.
Knowing that his possessions were so valuable to him makes it difficult for me to get rid of anything. Even more difficult is that I don’t know what some of the stuff is, so how can I make a decision of how to handle it? I’d hoped to have someone help identify some of his treasures from his time at university, but it’s looking less likely that I’ll have that help now, which means I have to figure it out on my own. His treasures from when he was younger are easier because they are things that his family will value – many items I already know who I’d like to pass them on to.
I know I can’t keep everything. I know that Paul wouldn’t expect me to keep everything. But I can’t just throw things away that meant so much to him that he brought them with him when he moved. There are stacks of photos full of people I don’t know. There are news clippings and letters and old dinner menus from his university days. There are papers and mementos from his time in college. There are diaries and notebooks from his early-teens to late-20s. There are books and toys; shirts and ties; cuff links and pins; and everything else in between. And I just don’t know what to do with any of it.
How do I decide what to keep for myself and what to give to his family? How do I know if his friends want things, and what things they’d want? How do I decide these things for Paul?
It’s just stuff. But other than the memories, stuff is all I have left of Paul.