Following the death of my mother and the Christmas season, I have been on an upward spiral of activity. There is so much paperwork to do announcing my mother's death, or the transfer of utility or financial accounts over to me, or the application for the necessary probate. Telephone calls, emails, letters, bills and forms have suffocated me on a daily basis. In addition to that, I have been clearing out a lifetime's collection of clothes, documents, ornaments and other possessions from my mother's retirement flat. You would imagine a one-bedroom, one-living room flat would be a piece of cake to empty. Not a bit! Because of the compactness of it, every available space has been filled with what once used to be in a four-bedroom house. I have already filled something like twelve bin bags of clothes, bedding and ornaments to give to charity and that's just from the bedroom!
Kay came to help me last weekend. Sifting through every shelf or drawer or cupboard has brought gasps of amazement from both of us. One old battered suitcase tied up with a bit of string revealed many birth or death certificates dating back to 1865. There were
Victorian death announcements rimmed in black with carved out weeping angels. Photographs of my grandfather in a huge crowd of colleagues (male only) circa 1920 taken at the bank where he worked. A letter written by my mother to my grandmother on the day I was born. Such a treasure trove of things. Too many to list here.
Every thing is assigned to one of three piles........... to keep, to give to charity or to throw away. I have tried to limit what we keep, as my house cannot take much more. My daughter has already said she would like some bits of furniture for the day she eventually moves into her own house, so I have to find room temporarily for those items in our garage or cellar. Obviously precious things, heirlooms or sentimental things are kept but where to put them in my house? So I spend mornings at my mother's flat sifting and then afternoons back at my house, trying to shoe-horn them into a space here. The charity pile is enormous. The twelve bin bags in the bedroom are soon to be joined by even more when we start tackling the lounge and kitchen next week.
I feel guilty that I am disposing of more than I am keeping. I can feel my mother whispering at the back of my head as I assign yet something else to the charity or rubbish pile. "Sorry, mum" I say to the empty room around me. "I just can't possibly take this." It was beginning to bug me quite a bit the other day. When I drove back onto my forecourt and lugged several bags of "keep" stuff out of the car, I looked across to the front door. There lay a six-inch long white feather on the mat. There is a theory that when a loved one dies, the sign of a feather is a message from them, reassuring you. I have written about it before here. My logical side tells me it is a load of hokum. There's a perfectly good explanation - a white pigeon or magpie probably flew over the house and jettisoned a feather as it did so. My weaker side likes to think it was mum saying "Don't worry, I perfectly understand. You cannot keep everything."