On the Importance of Stuff

Before Mari died I’d never really experienced the loss of a loved one before. My sister was such an integral part of our family, the oldest and sweetest sister. I never realized how she buffered the more aggressive personalities in our family, the lubricant that made us all move together in smooth cohesion. Now there’s a void in everything, something missing, and we’re all raw and rubbing against each other in the wrong way without her. Closer, but lonely regardless. I miss my sister and they miss their mother and daughter and sister too.

Her absence is felt every day, as tangible as the person itself. It stands in the room with us, sits in every moment she doesn’t witness. It’s strange that the last traces of her are indistinct smells on sweaters that hung in her closet, unworn for who knows how long. Sometimes I’m surprised they still smell like her, but I still smell each item before I roll it up and put it in a box. I am desperate for my sister.

I’ve been tasked with clearing and emptying her bedroom, and in doing so I’ve realized how immaterial things were to Mari. She didn’t spend money on jewels or fancy clothing. Mari was much more interested in having good meals, good mojitos, taking trips and watching movies. In making memories with the people she loved. It’s a trait I wish I possessed. With that said, I wish I had more.

As I rifle through all her belongings, I wish there were more I could keep. More items that held special places in her heart, more things she loved that I could touch to keep her close. She didn’t have many keepsakes and I often find myself wishing she did. Things that I could give my daughter or to her own children. Items that I could imbue with the symbolic love and affection and importance of my sister.

She was only 43 years old and in my mind’s eye I could see us older, cackling and inappropriate grandmothers surrounded by babies. It’s an image I clung to when she was sick, like I could will the universe to grant us the time if I just thought it enough. I can’t believe those visions are fantasy now. My biggest fear when Mari got sick was that Wilde wouldn’t remember her. That Mari would become just a story. One she heard often, but not one she’d ever know or experience herself.

This fear is reality now. My daughter, who was so loved by her aunt Mari, will not know her or touch her or experience her immeasurable joy and kindness and it hurts so much. All she will have are the blankets that Mari so carefully chose for her, and a pair of earrings that are far too large for her to wear now. It is a small comfort, but it is comforting nonetheless to give this small piece of my sister to my daughter. While I can appreciate that we should live our lives not in the pursuit of things, those items, your heirlooms, and most prized possessions, they will bring comfort to the people that loved you when you’re gone.

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