Matt,  I have a friend who collects clothing and donates them to men who are leaving treatment and going into sober homes.  As you know many leave with the clothes on their backs and nothing more.  

We have become close as we have both lost our loved ones from substance abuse and work together trying to make a difference in someone’s life to honor her brother and you, my son.  

I really thought after almost eight years I could walk into your closet gather a few things together and drive them over to her collection site.  I had several of your tee shirts made into a quilt about five years ago, but still had bins of your winter clothes stored in what used to be your closet. 

In my heart I knew it was the right thing to do.  I knew it was what you would have wanted me to do.  You had such a giving heart and would want your clothing to keep another man who shared your disease warm this bitter winter season.  I really thought I could just walk in there and grab your stuff, pack it up and deliver it without my grief grabbing my heart and ripping the scar wide open.

What I didn’t expect was to be surrounded by your scent as I opened the bins containing your winter sweaters.  I didn’t expect the guttural reaction my soul would have as I put my face into the softness of fleece breathing in you.  I could feel myself losing control as memories of you began dancing in my mind.  I could see your smiling face as I wrapped myself up in one of your favorite sweaters.  I could picture you coming in from the cold wearing the sweater I was now wrapped up in.  

My tears started to flow as I kept telling myself that these beautiful sweaters were not helping anyone and I knew what I needed to do.  

I felt like a robot going through the motions as I lifted them out of the bins and placed them into bags to deliver to my friend.  Talking to myself, talking to you trying to summon strength to continue with my plan.  

Driving to her place my tears continued to flow.  My grief continued to wreak havoc with my heart.  I questioned if I could go through with my plan as I pulled up in her driveway.  She recognized my pain and wrapped me in a hug.  Reassuring me that you would be happy to donate your things to give others the blessing of warm clothing.  

As I was removing the last bag I reached in for one last smell, one last touch.  It was then I knew this one sweater was coming home with me.  This one sweater was you.  It was your smell, your eyes, your hair, your smile, your laugh.  It was your voice saying I love you Mom.  That sweater draped over my shoulders on our ride home was a piece of you I could not give up……..