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Carrying Grief ... In The Trunk Of The Car

Written by Jolene Pate, Guest Author

Want to know something? Death - the healing process - is hard. Strange. And weird. And something I’ve learned over the past 2 years? You can’t push someone to “be ready” to take the next step, feel a certain way, or grieve like you are.

Let’s talk about the bowls. And let’s talk about weird.

I’ve been packing these bowls around in the trunk of my car since September. Clattering on I25 when I’m forced to come to a screeching halt because some idiot cuts me off.

Squeaking during a moment of rare silence on a family trip- when my hubby pulls over thinking something else is wrong with my darn car.

Taking up room in the trunk that I’ve needed for groceries...

Why- you ask- haven’t I just taken the time to clean out the dang trunk??

Because I can’t.

I can’t yet face my trunk - and the memories it now holds.... not just these old beat up bowls.... but a modge-podge of last minute memories put in that trunk in September when we did the final clean out of my mom and dad’s house. The day I had the super-sonic meltdown that seemed very weird at the time to my kids; after all the awful, heartbreaking moments we’ve been through up to that point.

On that hot September day- THE ONE Wyoming day without the ever-present wind-- Literally the last couple things to go through in their shed:  and I find a box of odds and ends beat up, scratched Corelle dishes- that had any of my kids found before I had - would have went in the dump trailer without a second thought.

The first thing that caught my eye was the writing on the box- my Aunt Toni’s (my dad’s sister) and the words “Jackson House, mom’s dishes for Joey” - The original tape still on that box — it hadn’t been opened since it was packed... eons; and lifetimes ago.

I opened that box, sitting in that sweltering hot shed, on the floor; surrounded by dead flies and God knows what other insect parts from so many years past, and realized I hadn’t seen these scratched and beat up bowls since I was a child.

Growing up, we spent every single holiday we could in Jackson with my dad’s family- my little, cute - most definitely the boss - 4’10” Slovenian grandma would cook for everyone- like cook for an Army cook ... it was her passion.

As was her family.

Every single scratch, dent, and ding in these bowls reminds me of homemade noodles for chicken noodle soup, mountains of buttery mashed potatoes... authentic Slovenian dishes that I just wish I could have watched, and learned to laughter, wine glasses and Slovenian conversation flowing around me...and the list goes on.

I’ve been really hard on myself the last couple of months especially, stressing about not having a memorial planned yet for my mom. I even took the time off at work.., but somehow, me - the organized planner of everything and everyone.... just CANNOT get started on it. Any of it.

And lately, every time I stress about that, my mind wanders to my trunk... telling myself I just need to buck up and unload it... but you know what?

I've FINALLY started to figure out that just like my dad; who couldn’t bear unpacking my grandma’s dishes, that it’s  OKAY that I can’t do my mom’s memorial yet. It’ll come... and so will the people that loved her so dearly to honor and celebrate her wonderful life.                 

Her death has been really hard for me to process.

There’s a lot of guilt.

And I’m working on that... I know she now has clarity and knows that we did what we did out of love and to keep her safe with her dementia.

It doesn’t make her sudden passing any easier though. Not even.

Nor the fact that we didn’t get to kiss her goodbye and tell her how much we loved her; like we did my dad.

Both events were the hardest things in life to go through... but with my dad we knew. We had time to plan and make the memories. But mom was just so ... sudden.

She was just... gone. We always joked her stubborn little self would outlive everyone. Definitely one of the sad, ironic parts of life I suppose.

Back to the dishes though- for they inspired what I needed to share from my heart tonight.

They’ll probably sit on my counter for a while- I just need to see them for a bit as I walk by doing this or that.

I’m proud of my courage for unpacking them and finally bringing them inside. Baby steps before I tackle the rest of my trunk... and maybe soon, with a little more healing; I’ll move on to Memorial planning- so that we can all finally celebrate the little lady with the big black bun who never stopped smiling... walking....or working

Rest In Peace Mom.

Rest In Peace Dad.

I hope you both know there’s not a single day that goes by where one memory or another doesn’t flash through my minds eye...and I smile, or cry... or both.

Like I said... healing - messy, hard...weird... but it happens. IS happening... slowly. I’m scratched and dented just like these darn bowls...but that’s what happens - life happens.

None of us are getting out of here without some serious character building/soul searching - and finding - dings and dents.


More Articles In Our Grief Series 

Grief Series: Let's Talk About Grief

Reality of Grief and Hope Moving Forward

Complicated Grief: When A Broken Heart Doesn't Heal


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