Over the past two weeks we have been clearing my late husband’s house so that it can be put on the market. I wondered for a while why I felt it was important to be part of the process, (one which my sons could have carried out perfectly well on their own), and why I felt obliged to cancel a trip away with friends, so that I could be with them while the job was done.
Eventually I realised that this final clearance is like a last rite of passage for my husband: when his house has been sold, and his possessions have been divided up between members of his family, given away, or taken to the dump, then he will really be gone, in as much as there will no longer be a physical place which is ‘his’, and where his presence remains, but only the place he has in our hearts and memories. There is something about showing respect: for Michael, for my children, and for the family we have continued to be, despite our separation.
So of course I had to be part of it; and even though my sons have been doing the really hard physical slog, while I have largely remained on the sidelines, I have still been part of the decision making, and a point of reference for sorting things out. And most importantly I have been able to join in the celebration of our shared lives together as a family, as long-forgotton objects come to light, and the cry goes up “Ohh! that’s so typically Dad, we can’t throw that away!”