Jim’s clothes are still hanging where he left them. I have gone through most at some point to bring them to him while he was living in the home, but all of his dress shirts, work clothes, suits…they’re collecting dust.
We have shelves to collect shoes on the landing of our stairway. There are still two pairs waiting for Jim’s feet to walk them out the door. His toiletry case is still on top of the cabinetry in the bathroom. His reading glasses are in the passenger door of the van.
Jim hasn’t lived at home in over a year. He has been gone from this earth for five months. Yet I still haven’t thrown out a single item. Have barely moved anything from its original location. There was an opened water bottle in the fridge that was his. Has the letter "J” written in sharpie on the cap. I have gone so far as to move it to the kitchen counter.
My world has been a whirlwind yet it is at a standstill.
I know there is no timeline. I know eventually, when the time is right I will gather the energy, the desire and the clarity to either pack up, remove or use the things that were once part of our happy family of four. Eventually. Not now.
Now I am just working on getting the kids back to school with whatever is on their respective lists. Now I am just trying to make sure we have food in the fridge. Now I am working on not taking a four hour nap each day. Now I am working on…just living. Just waking up and getting through what is essential for that day and doing it again the next day.
There is joy from the kids. They are my saving grace. They are my connection to Jim, to the world, to me. There is joy from my parents. They have never wavered from their support or their continued assistance with whatever it is I can’t do alone. There is joy from the friends who still call, write or occasionally stop by. But through all the joy, through the smiles and the stories and the laughter I still feel completely empty inside. There is a part of me that is gone and although I am not always consciously aware of why, something just doesn’t seem right or seems amiss, no matter what I am doing or who I am with.
Sometimes I look at old photos and it makes me long for Jim. The OLD Jim. The one who was just so handsome, so smart, so handy. Sometimes I look at videos or pictures from more recent times with him and I know, even though I don’t want to, that it was time for him to leave us. Even though I would give anything to hug him and sit with him again, I do not wish him the life he was living for the past year. Or two years really. Even though he knew us, was happy and well taken care of, the comparison of who he once was and who he became is stark. In my heart I am confident he was relieved to be done with this disease but I also know in that same place deep inside of me he never wanted to leave me or his children.
So, his winter coat will hang in the coat closet next to mine for the foreseeable future, and it will be a nice reminder that he was here. And he still is.