It's difficult to know when it's time to get rid of things that belonged to your loved one. After Eddie's death, I talked to people who got rid of everything immediately, then regretted it later. I also talked to those who held on to things for years, and they weren't sure they had done the right thing either. I guess there is no right or wrong answer, no perfect time - you just have to do what feels right for you. The first thing I decided to get rid of was Eddie's gun cabinet. It had been sitting empty in our bedroom for over a month. Eddie's dad and stepfather had taken the guns out of it the weekend of his funeral. I couldn't stand the sight of the guns, and as far as I was concerned they could have thrown them in the lake. But a month later the empty cabinet was still sitting in our bedroom, and I finally couldn't stand it anymore. I called a neighbor of ours who had been a hunting buddy of Eddie's and asked him if he knew anyone who might want the cabinet. He said he didn't need it but his son could use it. So on April 23rd, 5 weeks after Eddie's death, Jim came to get the gun cabinet. I don't guess I ever really knew the meaning of the word bittersweet until that day. It was a relief for me to get the gun cabinet out of our bedroom, but at the same time it was very hard for me to see something that Eddie had loved being taken from our home.
My mother had moved Eddie's hanging clothes from our closet so I didn't have to deal with those right away. But he still had drawers full of clothes in our bedroom and personal items in our bathroom. I soon realized I had to do something with those. The summer after Eddie's death I decided to clean these out. I packed up most of the things as quickly as I could in bags to take to Goodwill. I knew if I took too much time I would change my mind. There were a few things, however, that I just couldn't let go of. I kept the pajamas that he had slept in the last night we were together. I kept his hairbrush, toothbrush, blow-dryer, and razor because these were just too personal to give away. I kept his wallet, cell phone, and car keys. I kept a pair of camouflage pants, a Georgia Bulldogs t-shirt, and a Boston Red Sox shirt with Big Papi on the back - Emily called Eddie Papi. These were all things that in some way showed who Eddie was. I still have these in the bottom drawer of a dresser. I occasionally open the drawer and look at them. Sometimes I even take them out. In the beginning I could still faintly smell Eddie's cologne on them, but that smell has now faded.
Another thing I had to deal with was the pictures. I've always kept lots of family pictures all over the house. I even get teased sometimes about my "arrangement" of pictures on the refrigerator. Every picture is in a magnetic plastic covered pocket and placed on the refrigerator in neat rows. Initially I didn't change anything about the pictures, but eventually I realized I was walking through the house looking at the floor to avoid looking at the pictures. So many of them were right at my eye level, and I suddenly couldn't stand staring into Eddie's face everywhere I went. I decided to take a few of the pictures down and to move the others either up or down, just as long as they weren't right in my line of vision. This made it easier for me to walk through the house again. I still have a lot of pictures, but they're all family - Eddie with Trey, with Emily, with me, with all of us - none of them are of Eddie by himself. Today, over two years later, I still have 14 (I counted them today). Is that enough, is it too many? I don't know. Again, I don't think there is a right or wrong answer - I just do what feels comfortable for me.
I didn't have to do anything with Eddie's truck because the insurance company totaled it after the wreck. I know a lot of people have trouble with insurance companies after some type of loss, but I have to say I had nothing but positive experiences during all of this. Both the auto insurance company and the life insurance company were extremely helpful and easy to deal with. I guess this was a little something I could be thankful for in the middle of all of the bad that was happening. I did however still have Eddie's car. I knew I would never drive it, and Trey didn't want it either, but I couldn't make myself get rid of it. I did move it to the side of the house so, like the pictures, I didn't have to look right at it every day. But it took more than a year for me to finally let go of it. When I did list it for sale part of me hoped it would go quickly, but part of me hoped no one would buy it. I did get an offer after a few weeks, and thankfully it came from someone I knew, so I felt good about selling it. Watching the people who bought it drive away from my house was like watching the day I gave the gun cabinet away - bittersweet.
I've done a few other things like cleaning out the storage closet under the carport and giving away some of Eddie's smaller hunting items. Trey took most of his fishing rods and supplies and kept his favorite camouflage jacket. There is still a lot left to do though. I haven't touched the attic or the storage buildings. Those are big jobs that I haven't felt ready to tackle yet. There is also one thing inside that I have to take care of - the closet where my mother moved Eddie's hanging clothes to hasn't been touched. I know I need to clean it out. It's crazy to hold onto the things inside, but every time I walk into that room with the intention of cleaning out that closet I turn around and walk back out. I keep telling myself that I'll take care of it another day ... when the time is right.
"Not until each loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Will God unroll the pattern
And explain the reason why
The dark threads are as needful
In the Weaver's skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
For the pattern which He planned."