What it all comes down to

August 1, 2016

goneIs this what it all comes down to when we’re gone?

Bags full of clothing donated to Goodwill?

Dresses once worn to weddings and graduations. Jeans in rainbow hues, the height of style. A leather jacket zipped close up the front. Shirts and skirts, purses and shoes, angels and candles, all part of a life fully lived and yet still, incomplete. All going on to be part of someone else’s life, someone who’s never pulled outfits off the rack at Nordstrom or Chicos or Black/White, admired them and then, purchased and worn them.

Is this what it all comes down to?

Maybe not.

Maybe it’s this:

“This looked great on her at J’s wedding.”

“She wore this one all the time.”

“Oh, this is soo her!”

“What WAS she thinking?”

We’re four women going through her things, as she knew we would one day. As she expected. She was, after all, sick for a long time.

Her daughter. Her daughter’s oldest friend. Both now in their late 40s, but I have known them since their teens. How did we get to this day of rummaging, sorting, piling remnants of the life of a woman we loved?

And two of us, a certain age, her sisters. Not of blood, but of love. Sisters of her heart and she of ours. She was a decade older but still, we were sisters, the three of us.

We were sisters.


I gave her this six years ago. Now, it hangs in my home.

The four of us now, two generations, sliding drawers open, sorting things in piles for consignment, for Goodwill or for one of us to keep as a memento and in doing so, we celebrated the fullness of our beloved’s life. We assessed, we teared up, we smiled and we laughed out loud. At one point we each took a scarf from her vast collection of stylish and also inexplicable ones, wrapped them around our heads like hijabs and took a selfie. We looked ridiculous and we knew it–no one could wear a scarf like she did, certainly not us. The laughter was good medicine.

In a drawer I found a card I’d written her upon the death of the love of her life and folded within, the program from his funeral. In the card I’d written of love, of my understanding of hers for him, of his for her and of her grace in letting him go to the light with love. She’d tucked the mementoes together in a drawer with some clothing. Nothing else. Clothing, and this card I’d written, words with my deep understanding of how she’d felt and how he was and all that water under the bridge.  Words that meant something to her.

Sisters. When you’ve chosen a family or origin like mine, in which the sister relationship is null and void, our sisterhood meant everything to me. Everything.

In another drawer I found a card the other sister of her heart had written her, again, with nothing else but some clothing. That card had spoken of the great gift of love she’d given that sister in marking an important occasion. That card, too, had been kept aside. That card, too, held special meaning.

Cards written by her two sisters, kept in special places. She probably reread them from time to time, the other sister said.  Yes, I agreed. She probably did.


We were soo young. And look at our dark Italian eyes!

As we sorted, each of us chose tokens of remembrance. Earrings. A bracelet. Clothing. A scarf.  One day in the not too distant future we’ll each pick up that piece of jewelry or put on that shirt and we’ll remember.

And that’s what it really comes down to. It comes down to the memories.  It’s not the stuff at all. It’s the memories.

Back in my car I stared up at the second story shutters that covered the window in her loft. I imagined that she was up there in her chair, her caregiver fixing dinner, one of the sappy movies we both enjoyed on the TV. I remembered Riley trying to jump up in her lap the last time he’d visited her. I remembered telling her how we’d shop for a new love seat when she finished treatment. And I remembered better years, when we’d sat drinking tea and talking of life in a different way.

From the parking lot I could imagine that she was still there, behind the blinds. That I could open the door, run up the stairs and see her broad smile, exchange hugs, start dishing about all things. There, we’d exchange the gift of friendship, of sisterhood, as we had so many times in the past 30 years

The memory was so strong it felt true and real.

I started my car and headed for home, her face, her voice with me still.

Yes, in the end, that’s what it comes down to.



72 comments on “What it all comes down to
  1. ryder ziebarth says:

    I know that was hard for you to write. But you did it beautifully. Good for you, Carol.

      • sue says:

        I’m always moved by your writing Carol so thank you for sharing your wonderful talent of writing and story telling. It is difficult to sort through a loved one’s possessions when they are gone. We are currently doing this for my FIL. I love your attitude at how we look at the possessions and put memories to them. I would have loved to see the photo of you all in your scarves. Thanks for another beautiful post. Sue from SizzlingTowardsSixty

  2. What a beautiful post. You have some wonderful memories and I am grateful that you have those.

  3. Carla says:

    So so so beautiful.
    I’m going to make some generalizations only because it’s what’s happening in my world, but it feels to me right now as the women can see this (we don’t take anything with us, it’s the relationships and bonds that matter) and too often man – – OK my man 🙂 – – get caught up in accruing things which in the very end don’t matter.

  4. Lovely remembrance and tribute. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Leanne says:

    That was beautiful Carol – and what I wish I could have written about my dad – I’d love to have wonderful memories to hold close and to know there were keepsakes and warmth and laughter – you were very blessed to have known her (and she was blessed to have such lovely friends)

  6. Ruth says:

    Just perfect my friend!

  7. Paula Kiger says:

    Lovely lovely remembrance, Carol. Much support your way as you continue to grieve and process (and celebrate).

  8. What a lovely tribute.

  9. Haralee says:

    What a lovely tribute Carol. It made me cry. I lost my BFF this past winter and I did not get a chance to go through her things, her sisters did. We shopped a lot together over the decades and my friend was not one to clean out her closets so it would have been fun to relive the memories. I’m glad you had the opportunity.

  10. I spent about 6 months last year going through my parents things – heavens, they never threw anything out, it was overwhelming at times, the sheer quantity of stuff. Every now and then I’d find something small and precious that I wanted to keep though, for instance, a little ceramic blackbird that my mother used to put in her homemade chicken pie to let the steam up out of the crust. It was so sweet it made me cry. Lots of love xx Katie M Little.

  11. Old memories are always sweet. Loved your post.

  12. How I love your writing,Carol. Beautiful post remembering your sister/friend. How sad that you lost someone so special to you. Hugs.

  13. Barbara says:

    So beautifully written, Carol. Thank you for sharing this.

  14. Jennifer says:

    Beautiful to focus on the gift of her presence.

  15. Beautifully written and I so agree- the memories.

  16. This was so beautiful, I only hope to be remembered in the same way when I pass. You can tell how much she meant to you and how much you cherished her.

  17. Memories – that’s all we’re left with. I’m glad you have such nice ones of a beautiful friendship.

  18. Lovely. A wonderful tribute to the living and the woman who passed.

  19. Beautiful thoughts. I think it’s great to live with the thought in mind that someone may be going through your drawers someday. Kind of keeps things in perspective and helps me decide what to keep.
    Sounds like she treasured the things you’d made and written her. So lovely.

  20. Brenda Brown says:

    Wow you really have a way with words. This made me get a lump in my throat and very close to crying. Thank you for sharing.

  21. tara pittman says:

    Going through clothes of a loved one who passed is so hard. I did this a couple of years ago with my mother in law. I kept some items to help me remember her.

  22. So sorry for your loss, Carol. I hope this post was cathartic for you. All the best.

  23. T.O. Weller says:

    Carol, your love is all over your words and I cried. Beautiful.

  24. Beautiful, Carol. Yes, it’s the memories, not the stuff. I’m glad you have so many good ones.

  25. helene cohen bludMan says:

    That is just beautiful, Carol. Straight from your heart.

  26. Ashley says:

    Hugs to you. I’m sure this was heart breaking to write. I know all to well what it comes down to…

  27. A really beautiful post. I’m glad you have some lovely memories.

  28. It really is what it comes down to. Going through the stuff is necessary and frustrating, Good memories, bad memories. In a way it doesn’t end. The other day I went to put air in my tires and grabbed my pressure gauge. Thoughts of my mother came back to me – she bought it for me because I like pink and she was getting a soda at the gas station. Finding a note she wrote to herself in one of my cookbooks.

  29. Tamara says:

    Such a beautiful tribute to a deep and abiding friendship.I love that you did this as a foursome. Doing it alone is far too sad. xo

  30. Thank you for these beautiful heartfelt words. They remind us all what is truly important. Giving and receiving love is so precious. Savor those beautiful memories that will always be alive in your heart.

  31. I use my mother’s wooden cooking spoon all the time. I think of her every time I use it. I remember going to a Goodwill store and seeing all of these commemorative mugs on a shelf. I knew they were the remnants of homes that were no longer homes. I’ve vowed to never have one in my home. Too depressing.Lovely piece. Thank you.

  32. Lizzi says:

    Really wonderfully written. So sorry for your loss, but so glad for all the love and all the memories you have, and for all the time you spent with her.

  33. This post is so beautiful!! And it is a really cute tribute.

  34. This was simply beautiful, Carol. Thank you for this glimpse into your heart, and your friend’s.

  35. I love how the post symbolizes our daily life… it makes us see the sense of everything while it is here. I enjoyed reading the post.

  36. quin says:

    How fortunate you all were to have each other. My heart truly aches for your loss. I’m so glad you have something tangible to remember her by, though. What a beautiful tribute.

  37. Amy Jones says:

    A beautiful and powerful entry. I hope you can find peace in your heart during this grieving process

  38. estelle says:

    I’m sorry you lost your beloved friend. You evoked her memory in such a lovely way in this post. That’s what is important.

  39. Never an easy thing to do. What a lovely way to document it. So sorry for your loss.

  40. Karlyn Cruz says:

    Oh, this is a nice writing. I love how you give tribute. I’m sorry to hear about the loss, I hope everything will be fine soon.

  41. Kyle Mcmanus says:

    It makes me smile and teary that J & Dina get to experience such wonderful vignettes about their mother through your writing. Thank you,

  42. A beautiful tribute to a beautiful sister, the memories are there to remember her by but remember she is always there with you x

  43. Meryl baer says:

    A beautiful, touching and truthful tribute. So sorry for your loss.

  44. Elizabeth O. says:

    That’s so beautifully written. It shows how deep your relationship was with her and how you miss her so. It’s a rare kind of friendship and it’s always something that’s worth remembering for the rest of your life. Keep her alive through the memories that you shared together.

  45. Liz Mays says:

    This brought tears to my eyes. It was so beautifully expressed and moving. I’ll be thinking on it all day, I feel.

  46. Azlin Bloor says:

    Carol! This is a brilliant post, it made me pause and think and it gave me goosebumps! Thank you for a reminder to look back and and reach out for the memories that matter – good or bad.

  47. Christine says:

    What a beautiful tribute! This made me cry. I hope you find some peace, during this difficult time.

  48. Rosemond says:

    So beautiful and moving. It brings up so many feelings of times of times I’ve sorted and sifted through the lives of my family and friends. Lovely, lovely visceral post.

  49. Robin Rue says:

    This is such a moving post because you really don’t think about these things. I know this took a lot to write. My deepest sympathies.

  50. Sarah Bailey says:

    Sorting through things that were once someone’s that were so close to you can be super tough. Some happy memories and some sad for sure.

  51. Jay Simms says:

    Losing someone that you were close to is hard to put down in words, but you did beautifully. You are such a brave soul for looking at everything from this perspective.

  52. Thank you for writing this as a reminder that when the things are gone, the memories are still locked in our hearts.
    May god keep you safe on your journey of carrying on.

  53. This is truly an exceptional post. It’s what creative writing was designed for. I am so sorry for your loss, but you have really turned it into an emotional read.

  54. Pamela Kuhn says:

    Beautifully written. I just experienced this same thing — it’s harder than I imagined. I found bits of history untold. And memories shared. I am so, so sorry for you loss.

  55. Wildish Jess says:

    This was an absolutely beautiful post! It hit home with my step mother battling cancer for years before passing.

  56. Rosey says:

    How wonderful to have had someone so very important to you in your lives. I’m sorry that she’s gone, but so grateful for her that she had you (and vice versa).

  57. This was such a beautiful post Carol! I think going through belongings is the hardest part of saying goodbye because you know then it’s so real.

  58. Silly Mummy says:

    Very beautiful and moving. Sorry for your loss.

  59. How sad to lose your sister friend.Your post took me back to the days of sorting through my mother’s and my sister’s personal items. It was difficult and healing at the same time. Such love and friendship and in the end what it all comes down to are the beautiful memories. Hugs.

  60. wendy says:

    What wonderful memories! I am sorry for your loss but I am glad you are able to carry her around in your heart!

  61. Kathy Kenny Ngo says:

    What a wonderful tribute. It makes me sad while reading but still it keeps me motivated. Your words inspire people. And keep it up!

  62. Ayesha Heart says:

    Thousands of hugs! This is sad but always think God has a purpose for everything. Great memories! Thanks for sharing this to us.

  63. What a beautiful post and wonderful tribute to your friend, and also to you for being there for her. It’s tough. I’m cleaning out my mom’s house – as we had to move her into memory care. She had lived there 40 years, so there is a lot to go through – and it’s tough, it is exhausting, and it can be exhilarating sometimes – but tough it is. Thank you for sharing!

  64. What a beautiful tribute to your sister/friend, and a tender look at what it means when we say goodbye to those we love. We hold their memories in our heart and that is a blessing indeed.

  65. What a beautiful post!! You have some wonderful memories, thank you for sharing them with us!

  66. SKJAM! says:

    I am told by some that we are never truly dead until the last person with a memory of us is gone. Even a second or third hand memory.

  67. Beautifully written, Carol. My late friend left me several pieces of her jewelry. At first I couldn’t wear any of them, it was too painful. Now, one year later, I wear them with great joy. I know she’s looking down and smiling. May you experience the very same.

  68. Berlin says:

    The pain might still be there but youve managed to write it beautifully, without hurting the feelings of your lovely departed. Sorting things of your once loved one can be a real struggle but youve managed successfully. Cheers.

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