I’m 81 years old. Lord knows how much time I have left. I so admire those who are able to cull as they age, and who leave only a few personal possessions around them when they take leave of this beautiful earthly life.
All around me used to be photographs that my former husband Ray lovingly took, printed, framed, and then hung on our walls. I don’t want to die and have my family toss them or donate them to Goodwill, so I recently organized a show at Quiet Waters Park to sell these photographs. The profits will go to two organizations of which Ray would approve: Friends of Quiet Waters, and Center of Help, a non-profit organization providing support to immigrants who live in this area.
The pictures are all stacked at my house and are ready to transport to the show, but my empty walls cry out. The empty nails and hooks seem to fly off the walls and straight into my tear ducts, pulling out the tears which have lain hidden deep within me until now.
Isn’t this what I wanted? Didn’t I think how good it would be if people bought the photos because they loved them? Or loved Ray? Or loved the memories that the photos brought?
Wouldn’t it be lovely to give to charity, and at the same time cull the things I love the most, so that I can see the recipients while I am still alive, and see the joy they get when the possessions change hands?
Then why am I so sad?
To have Ray die after 54 years of marriage was tough. Six years later, married to a new loving husband, I continue to mourn Ray’s death, although the pain is softer and of shorter duration. The empty walls of our house, however, are an unexpected loss. I had not fully realized how comforting it was to be surrounded by photos of North Dakota prairies, sunsets, flowers and pow-wows. Photographs of our trips to Trent and Vienna and Florence. Having them on the walls meant that Ray was still here, wrapping me daily with the love and memories we shared.
Today and all the days ahead, I will mourn once more. I have lost another part of Ray and our life together. Maybe the hooks on the walls will eventually lose their power over me and my tears will stop. Maybe.
Katherine Haas taught at Key School in Annapolis for 42 years. She now spends her time enjoying the arts with her husband, teaching Chinese, working part-time at Key as Scientist in Residence and engaging in progressive activism.
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