Erasing a Life?
Sunday, November 03, 2019
My father died in May at the age of 89. My stepmother, Vera, who is 87, cannot safely live alone. She forgets to turn off the stove, cannot remember how to work the microwave, forgets to take her medication, things like that. My stepbrother, Dan, looked at assisted living facilities where she lives (about 1500 miles from him and about 1000 miles from where I live) and found a lovely one where she will get the attention she needs and still have some independence. She has a one-bedroom apartment. This is a step down from her two-bedroom house.
Last week I met Dan and his wife Maddie to start clearing out the house. I went through my father's things, took some mementos, and bagged up everything else for the local charity. I then switched to helping Dan and Maddie go through Vera's things. We did pack up clothing to take to Vera as well as some personal things, such as a stuffed bear she had been given by a friend who has since died. We are pretty much at the limits of the space Vera has.
There were SO MANY pieces of clothing with the tags still attached and multiples of things like candles and popcorn poppers that Vera bought from a TV shopping channel to which she is addicted. Dan was upset at the waste of money all this unused stuff represented. He was also saddened that he was packing up Vera's things while she is still alive. He asked Maddie and me if we were erasing Vera's life.
I understand his sadness but don't see any way around it. I don't feel like we were erasing Vera's life but making it possible for her to live comfortably in this new phase of her life. What Vera taught Dan as he grew up (my father didn't marry Vera until I was 30) and what she brought to my life over the last 33 years remains. The house will eventually need to be sold or rented out to pay for Vera's care if she needs to be moved to a higher level of care so we must remove the contents.
Any words of advice for us and/or words of comfort for Dan as he copes with his feelings?