Matt. I had myself fooled. Thinking that after 43 months I would be able to walk into your closet and not lose what was left of my mind. A friend had offered to make a quilt out of your shirts and I so wanted this to happen. I remember my self pep talk all morning. I kept telling myself to be strong. I kept saying over and over again, “You can do this.” I kept telling myself it was time to go through your clothing and donate some to a homeless shelter, knowing you would approve. I kept telling myself that your sweaters and coats would be useful in keeping a stranger warm this winter. I kept thinking how wasteful it was to keep everything just as it was when you were alive. Like you would come walking through the door looking for your favorite sweater. Like I was expecting you to come up to the kitchen freshly showered smelling of Phoenix telling me about your work day.
Your closet was the biggest in the house. A huge walk in fully carpeted and lined with shelves. Before you moved home, I used it for storing winter coats and odds and ends that I couldn’t decide what to do with. I remember putting my hand on the door. Giving myself that last push. Once again telling myself I could do this.
Pushing through the doors allowed light to flood the room. I stood surrounded by you. Your tee shirts and sweaters neatly folded on the shelves. Jackets hanging in the order last worn. I closed my eyes taking a deep breath as I sat on the floor and started to unfold your clothing. I didn’t realize the power of my grief. I started burying my face in your clothing. Pulling things off hangers and wrapping myself up in sweaters, coats and anything I could get my hands on. I didn’t understand the sounds coming from the depths of my soul had broken through the silence of the house. I didn’t realize that I was no longer alone lying sobbing on your closet floor until I felt her wet nose.
Belle lay down next to me. Trying to comfort me with her body. She like me would bury her nose in your clothing. Occasionally lifting her head and smelling the air. I could see it in her eyes that her heart recognized your smell just like mine did. Belle tilted her head when I mentioned your name. She like me was looking for you.
We sat together for most of the afternoon. Belle laying in the pile. Me wrapped up in the mess I’d created. Both of us smelling each piece trying to recover your scent. Every shirt held a bittersweet memory. Each one telling a story. Some came from travels to the Caribbean. Some bought just because you couldn’t stop laughing after reading their message. In my mind I could picture you wearing each one. Some were captured in the photos lining our bookshelves.
I lost track of time as I allowed myself the gift of grieving you with no one to witness my brokenness. Just the dog we both loved. I sat talking to Belle as if she understood. I talked about you and I walking together on the beach as Belle and Kahlua played in the surf. I talked about all the times we shared with the dogs in our happy place. I told her how she lived with you while I found a new home. I told her you constantly told me she was your dog now and you weren’t giving her back with that big grin on your face. I swear she understood as her snout continued to smell the air surrounding us. I let myself relax into her as memories of happy times at the beach flooded my brain. It was as if my dam broke and all the tears and memories were released together.
I don’t remember putting your things in a bin. I think that fog settled into my brain. The fog that protected my psyche as I was driving to my dear friends home allowing her to transform the most precious pieces left of your life. I do remember sobbing as I placed the bin in her arms. Almost as if I was a new mom turning over my precious child to the care of another. She asked if I wanted to assist her in how the quilt would be put together. Wanting me to give her guidance in how to create a piece to honor your life.
I just couldn’t do it. As ashamed as I was of my inability to help, I was emotionally spent. I would never survive holding those precious pieces so soon before I could begin to repair my shattered soul.
The call came days later. Your quilt was complete. Emotions swam through my brain. I wasn’t ready to face the reality that your quilt would represent. These shirts would never be worn by you again. This reality hit over and over as I drove through blinding tears to pick you up bringing you home again.
Walking through her door I saw her masterpiece. The quilt was displayed on her couch. I put my hand over my mouth to cover my sobs as she wrapped me in her hug. She laid the quilt in my arms like a precious newborn. I drink you in. Holding you and burying my face into you. Heading home I placed you on the passenger seat. Talking to you as I did when you were alive.
I carried you upstairs and laid you across my bed. Belle now by my side. Her nose seeking your scent. We sat next to each other, a grieving mother and her loyal dog sharing a loss felt deeply by both. Wrapped up together with the memories of the boy we both loved and lost……………..