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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?
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Your title caught my eye. I’ve felt sadness at estate sales of the bits and pieces that made a person’s life.
    42 days ago
    Just let him feel his feelings.
    I’m sure he is sad about seeing Vera moving closer to the end of her life.
    Anticipatory grief is real.
    Btw, our local homeless shelter accepts housewares and linens as well as clothes as they help people move put of the shelter into homes and some need everything!
    Our shelter will even come to my house to pick things up.Also, Big Brothers and Sisters will pick up.
    121 days ago
    Oh so hard! ---- It makes me think that I should begin to get rid of so much stuff now--- Lynda
    121 days ago
    192 days ago
    I agree with you completely. You are making this phase of her life easier and better for her. By donating things you are making someone else's life better. Those are just things anyway. What matters is she is loved. It's beautiful you two worked together to sort things and you get along.
    194 days ago
    208 days ago
    Aging is difficult for everyone! As a caregiver of my 93-year-old mom, I've learned that the hard way..... Unfortunately, there is no way around this. We have to go THROUGH it instead. In the end, the things you are wisely giving away are unimportant. What matters are the memories. How luck that your stepbrother has happy ones! Try to give everyone a break during this period, including yourself.
    557 days ago
    Your memories are in your heart. Sometimes an object brings those memories to the surface, but they are always there. Letting go of objects is not letting go of the memoires.
    561 days ago
    I went through this when my stepfather passed away. Mom still has most of her mental capabilities, but still now way for her to manage alone. Plus the cost of the place was to much on just her social security and their meager savings. They were also almost an hour away from us. Not good for emergencies or just little things like one morning the window got stuck and she couldn't close it. We moved her closer to the independent side of an assisted living facility and it is easier all around.

    It was difficult downsizing her and we had to make some tough decisions, but in the end they are just things.
    It's the memories attached to them that matter, and with or without the actual things you still carry those memories in your head and heart.

    Prayers for you and your family.
    561 days ago
    I think you nailed it telling Dan that you are making it possible for Vera to live comfortably in this next phase of life. It is not easy. Had to do the same thing w/both my parents, but . . . it was what had to be done. The most important thing is for her to be safe and cared for. That mission has been accomplished.

    Just a note from personal experience, I am sure there is grief going on there. And no 2 people handle it the same way. My brother and I handled my parents' affairs and we both had different reactions. But bottom line, again, was they were both safe and cared for. I felt fortunate that my parents were only 10 minutes from me, so I could visit daily.

    INitially they lived in IL, till they could no longer live independently, they we moved them in w/us here in WI. So many transitions for them!

    Hugs and blessings.
    561 days ago

    Comment edited on: 11/3/2019 11:50:58 AM
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    Sometimes someone says a thought out loud which releases the pain at that moment. He doesn’t need to be comforted, he will now move on to his logical side of his brain that tells him this is the right thing to do. She sounds like she has dementia. Hopefully not Alzheimer. My neighbors wife developed Alzheimer and when solicitors called for money she would give them her credit card number. My neighbor got the credit card bill and found she gave out 11,000. He took away her credit cards but could not get the 11K back without getting an attorney which would be expensive and then how much he could get back was iffy. He just took it at a loss.
    561 days ago
    You are all making it possible for Vera to live the rest of her life comfortably and safe. The contents of the house are just material things. They are not Vera. Enjoy the time you have with Vera and cherish the memories of her and your Dad.
    561 days ago
    I do understand him, but I also have come to realize that we each have to walk our own path and allow others to do the same. And accept that theirs was a path we might not agree with or understand. It is difficult to go through the clearing out of possessions. Stay strong.
    561 days ago
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