On Losing Everything

What’s so terrible about losing everything (okay, let me just say that there is LOTS that is terrible about losing everything) is that “everything” is too big to grasp or think of or remember all at once.  I KNOW I lost everything–every MATERIAL thing–I ever owned, collected, saved, cherished, treasured, hoarded, bought, was given, made, wrote, cared about.  I know this intellectually and have known it since I was told my house had burned down.
But I can’t think what everything encompasses all at once.  There were things that leapt into my mind immediately–the pictures (which is the first thing everyone mentions), the baby clothes, my wedding dress, my grandmother’s portrait.  But not a day goes by (honestly, it happens several times most days) that I don’t suddenly remember some cherished item and think, “That’s gone too.”  Pictures my kids drew–all of them.  John’s nutcracker collection.  The two complete books I wrote as a teenager.  My Eloise Wilkin picture book collection.  The Uncle Lem painting.  The dress I wore when I graduated from college.  The Global Babies picture book I bought for the baby that we lost.  My Barbie dolls and my mother’s storybook dolls.
Going shopping for new things, which ought to be fun, is tainted by sad thoughts as I walk through the aisles and everywhere see reminders of the things I used to have.  Going out with high school friends brings painful reminders of my yearbooks and my clippings and all the notes my friends wrote me and the drawings I made of them.  Hearing people talk about all the clutter in their houses and all the stuff they need to get rid of, thinking about decorating for Christmas, visiting other people’s homes and seeing their family portraits and decorations–all of these stab me through the heart, more or less.
Sometimes the realization of something that is gone will hit me suddenly, brought on by a remark someone has made.  Like the other day, when I suddenly remembered the love letters in my dresser drawer-one of the few times I was actually brought to tears by one of these memories.  Other times, I obsessively walk my way mentally through the house and force myself to remember.
The kids all seem to have moved on.  John doesn’t let himself think about it.  I can’t do that, and I’m not sure it’s healthy, at least for me.
Nobody died.  We have a new house.  People have so, so generously furnished it for us.  We have everything we need.  Yes, we are getting settled in.  Things are getting more normal (that “new normal” you hear about).  But I am still sad and angry and missing my stuff. [Update: Six years later, still hurts although obviously not as bad–and I still occasionally remember some item and mourn its loss specifically for the first time.]

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  1. Kristi Birchfield says:

    I can’t even imagine, Leslie, how much your heart aches for those special things that we all “hoard” that mark the time in our lives. Material or not, they weren’t just *things*, but things with memories and feelings, laughter and tears, attached to them. While your personal safety and the safety of your family is definitely most important, the loss of those things is immense. Love and hugs to you all as you continue to move forward and make new memories and gather new keepsakes to mark the time.
    Kristi

  2. Kelly Luper says:

    I am so sorry for your loss, because like you said you lost a lifetime of treasures asn memories. Some memories stay with you forever in your heart. You are very blessed to have your family with you and your friends. If there is anything I can do please let me know. Im not sure I have any old photo from the past at least till we wnt our seperate ways but I can maybe help out with other things you might need. God bless you and your family.
    Kelly

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