Your father and I have been together now for eight and a half years. As you know, we have been trying to work our way through the accumulated detritus of the past. Thanks in part to the huge shipment we sent you, we've finally gotten rid of the garage-sized storage locker, though the last few boxes wound up in our living room. Now I'm going through them one last time, ruthlessly culling, even as I take care to preserve the important stuff.
What counts as important? Photos. Several albums have found their way into boxes that will remain on readily accessible shelves. Pictures aren't going anywhere.
I also came across the sign-in book from your grandfather's funeral in 1965. As you know, he died when your dad was 15, so neither of us ever met him. Still, as I leafed through it, I was impressed to see page after page after page of signatures of friends and relatives. Clearly, he was loved. I slipped the book alongside the one from your grandmother. It's not going anywhere.
Then I came across a small bag, silver-and-white striped, containing several things:
- Six unopened, unused boxes of "Thanks for your expressions of sympathy" cards.
- An unused, unburnt shiva candle
- Three large manila envelopes stuffed to overflowing
- A silver-and-white striped box holding another book from another funeral, this one from 2001.
As for those overstuffed manila envelopes, they held all the cards and letters sent to you and your father after she died. When I saw what they were, I stopped what I was doing and went to find your father. I sat down facing him, took his hands, and asked simply, "Do you want to keep the cards from the funeral?" He sighed heavily as he considered. Finally he said, "Nine years is enough. They can go."
I pulled those stacks of cards and letters out of the envelopes and held them in my hand. There were a lot of them. They formed a stack at least six inches high:
I spread them out over the kitchen table. They covered it easily, several layers deep:
You have told me in no uncertain terms that you are not sentimental; that you have no use for stacks of old papers and cards filled with cliched platitudes. Neither does your father. Never fear: they have not been put into the mail to you. They have been duly discarded, as requested. Their purpose has been served. Hopefully, they brought you comfort at the time.
But know that each piece of paper, each bit of card stock, each tattered envelope, represents someone who loved your mother; someone who thought well enough of her to set pen to paper and stamp to envelope just to let you know that. Know that there were so many of them, they covered a kitchen table; spread out, they would easily have covered a banquet table.
Your mother was loved. By you; by your father; and by many more other people than you probably realized. The cards may have been discarded, but that love will always live on. And I now have the unfathomable good fortune to be the subsequent recipient of your father's love. Know that I will spend the rest of my days trying to be worthy of that, and to love him back with every fiber of my being. I'm not going anywhere.
If you are ever moved to doubt, just enlarge that picture of all those cards spread across the kitchen table, and know that you are loved too.
All my love, always.