Monday, June 22, 2020

If Only

A very happy Good Morning!!! It feels good to be back :)

The last 2 months have been especially difficult. A friend of mine fell in early March and broke her arm requiring surgery. Since she lived alone, rather than going home after the surgery, she went to a rehad facility to recuperate, and have therapy. While she was there, she developed pneumonia, but not COVID. She was taken to the hospital for treatment. Fluid was removed from her lungs, and in the fluid they found cancer cells. Upon further examination, it was discovered that she had lung cancer and that it had spread throughout her body, and into her brain. Two and a half weeks later, she left this world. 

A few years ago, my friend asked if I would be the executor of her estate. My reply was, "of course." Due to the virus, my husband and I remained in Colorado, tucked away in a small mountain town where there was virtually no threat of transmission, and life was much saner than here in Chicago. My friend and I talked on the phone until she could talk no more. I was surprised by how beautifully she accepted the fact that her life here on earth had come to an end. 

By the time I returned to Chicago, she was gone, and my work began. I have never dismantled a person's entire life. When my grandmother died, I helped a bit, but my uncle was in charge of all the details. So this was a very new, and overwhelming situation for me. Factor in COVID, and it truly became overwhelming.

When I first walked into her house, it all felt so very sad. It was eerily quiet, as if the house knew that its keeper was gone. I had no idea of where to begin. After I took a few minutes to regain my composure, I decided that the easiest place to start was with her clothes. Because of the virus, I couldn't have a garage sale, so I emptied out her closets and drawers, and began bagging everything up for charity. At that point, nothing was open in Illinois, but I had heard that Wisconsin had opened. Sure enough, Goodwill was taking donations. I packed the van with 15 very large bags of shoes and clothes. And so began my next 5 weeks of sorting and packing. 

There have been been moments where I've felt that I just couldn't do this. One morning I actually came downstairs after another night of no sleep, and told my husband that I just couldn't do this. The lawyer was pushing me to get the house on the market as soon as possible. The real estate agent wanted me to stage the house as it would show better. There was just so very much to go through. On one particular day, I opened a cabinet that was filled with hundreds of pictures. She had taken some wonderful trips. She had gone to Yellowstone to view the wolves, to Alaska to see grizzly bears and whales, to Peru, New Zealand, and more. So many pictures of all that she had experienced. As I sat there with pictures pouring into my lap, I began to cry. There was no one who would want the pictures, and so there was nothing that I could do but throw them away. I felt as though I was throwing her life away. Then a small miracle happened. I felt a voice in my head tell me that these were her memories. When we die, we cannot take our things with us, but what we do get to keep are our memories. She has all of this with her. This is just the physical reminder of her memories. It's okay, throw them away. 

The house was turned over to the real estate agent last Wednesday. I was a nervous wreak. Would what I had done be enough? My reward came over the weekend. There was an open house this past Saturday. A bidding war ensued, and the house went for considerably more than the asking price. The realtor told me that everyone commented on how lovely the home looked, and could see that it had been put together with love. Yes, it had :) 

There's still a tremendous amount of work to do, but not the day in and day out of spending such long hours of sorting and cleaning. 

While the open house was happening, I went out to spend some time with my mom. She has been telling me for quite some time that she would like me to go through old family pictures. There have been visits where I've asked. "what about now?" This past weekend she was finally ready. 

So many memories. Pictures of my grandparents, my great-grandparents, wonderful times, and then pictures that bring back memories that I would rather forget.

As my mother and I sorted, I came across this picture of my great-grandmother and my mother's 1st cousin.

Such a precious child. She was the only child of my great aunt. My great-grandmother is standing by the headstone monument of her son who died in WWII. Little did she know in that moment that in a few short years she would be back to lay this sweet child to rest.

When tragedy happens, we are shocked, and yet, we all know that tragedy is a part of life, but a part that is virtually impossible to accept. So often we say, "if only I had known, if only I had done more, if only I had reacted differently, if only, if only, if only..." We want to think that somehow we have power over this life. In a way, we do. The power that we do have is in how we react. Take our tragedies, learn from them, and be all the more aware of the blessing that our lives are. Become more aware of the blessing that we can be to those we love, to those with whom we come in contact. When we take the time to show our love, it is an act that we will never regret.

This may not apply, but it spoke to me, and I hope that it will to you as well.


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  1. Dear Rhonda,
    That was a beautiful reflection of your dear friend. You really did honor her memory. So sorry for your loss.

  2. I'm sure it was a great comfort to your friend to know that you would take care of the things she would not be able to.

  3. Darling Rhonda, I am so sorry to learn of the loss of your dear friend, especially at this time.

    You have a very special Angel watching over you now, knowing that her much loved friend worked tirelessly to fulfill the difficult duties as only you would.

    May I send you virtual hugs and hope that you give yourself time to grieve and look after yourself.

  4. What a blessing you were to your dear friend! I'm sure she was at peace knowing that you would be taking care of her possessions following her passing. Being the executor is certainly a big job that holds a lot of responsibility. You did it with such great integrity and passion! Bless you!

  5. I’m sorry for the loss of your dear friend. You are a blessing to help with her final request. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Hugs.

  6. Rhonda, you did a beautiful job writing all about that very sad event. What a wonderful friend you truly are. I read the whole thing out loud to my grandson. We were both so touched by your love and care. May God bless you richly for your faithfulness.

  7. Rhonda, I went through this same ordeal with a friend of almost 40 years. In fact, it's the last post on my blog. This estate things is a lot of hard work but I looked at it as it's the last thing I could do for my friend. It's still not completely over. CPA filed the last estate tax return and I'm holding $$ in estate account on advice of CPA and Atty in case IRS comes up with any questions. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  8. I saw your blog on Bloglovin' this morning and the title "If Only" caught my eye along with the photo of you gr-gr-grandmother. All I can say is that God led me to read this because it spoke to my heart and gave me some wisdom for letting go of things that my parents had kept as well as my late husband. I loved what you said about those photos being "her memories" and that she had taken them with her. It is giving me freedom to let go of some of those things that I didn't want but felt guilty about getting rid of them.
    I also like what you said about the only power we have is how we react to tragedy. And I pray I would have the wisdom to learn from the tragedies in my life and become a blessing to my loved ones and all God puts in my path.
    Blessings on you as you have done this marvelous act of love for your friend, and for sharing the wisdom you have learned through it.

  9. What a storehouse of wisdom you have shared today about letting go of things that were someone else's memories and of learning from our tragedies how to be more of a blessing to our loved ones and all God puts in our paths. You were a true blessing to your friend both in life and death, and you were a blessing to me this morning.

  10. God bless you for your kindness to your friend. That was a wonderful thing you did for her.

  11. I’m so sorry Rhonda. I’m glad you were there for her, even after she was gone. It is a big task. I was executor of my dad’s estate and he lived in his parents home which had never been sorted out after their deaths. This is a lovely post.

  12. Thank you, just so lovely to read. X

  13. Amen and Amen. What a beautiful tribute to your wonderful friend, and what a wonderful help to me. I am the "keeper" of my 4th cousin, Grandparents, and mom and dad's "things". Although we gave away most, the pictures remain. I am drowning in pictures. Your perspective - their memories are THEIRS and they take them with them - is helping the waters receed. I just took a very deep and calming breath. Perspective. Thank you for Blessing me beyond measure. I think I'll tackle some of the boxes and suitcases full of pictures. XOXO

  14. I am so very sorry for your loss,Rhonda. Your post and hard work are such a loving tribute to your friend. Your words have touched me deeply in a beautiful way that I wish I could express. Maybe one day. Thank you and God bless you.