top of page

His Things

It has taken me over 2 years, but I have finally begun to go through Mike's things.

In his 53 years, Mike accumulated a lot, and the idea of sorting through them all has been daunting.

Aside from the sheer volume of his possessions, I also had trouble with the idea of getting rid of them because I have not been ready to say goodbye to the space he occupied in the home we built together.

It has all seemed too precious. Getting rid of his things, to me, has felt like an exercise in wiping out his memory:

These were the tools he used to fastidiously sharpen all my kitchen knives.

This was his favorite fountain pen with which he wrote many a handwritten note, list, or reminder.

This was the goofy anniversary present I gave him: a bell for him to ring whenever he wanted a kiss.

Mike holding a bell and puckering his lips for a kiss
Mike ringing the bell, which says "Ring for a Kiss".

That I could not only disturb, but also potentially get rid of, the things that reminded us that he lived among us? This has felt impossible.

Truly, nothing has felt too mundane. His toothbrush. The socks in his sock drawer. His water bottle that still sits on his bedside table. His many pairs of reading glasses found everywhere: the car, his desk, in the family room, and even the kitchen.

And those are just the little things.

He also owned a slot machine which he acquired from a casino in Las Vegas. He had schlepped it to Sacramento after we married. It is too heavy even for 2 people to lift.

And of course, there are his collections: antique/ vintage straight razors, Morse code keys, transmitter radios....

How does one even begin?

One begins, I decided, by just going through it all, one space at a time.

Making piles. Big ones.

Keep. Donate. Throw away. Sell.

Seems simple, right?


It is simple until you involve your children who basically want to keep everything, even though they know you can't.

So that's one emotional aspect of this entire overwrought exercise: treading so very carefully so as to not create too much trauma for everyone in the household.

It is simple for as long as you don't think too hard about going through his sacred spaces and making decisions about the things that mattered to him.

But it is impossible not to overthink it. Part of you wants to honor his love and regard for these things that he held so dear. Their history. The stories they tell.

And another part of you says, "They're just objects. They're not him."

Walking this narrow road of sentimentality punctuated by moments of objectivity is, in a word, exhausting.

When you invite others to walk down a portion of this road because they are friends that knew Mike, then you might also find out that there are more stories you hadn't heard before.

I asked some of Mike's radio club friends for help with his ham radio gear, mostly expecting advice. Instead, what I got was much more than advice.

I should have been wiser. I should have expected more than just transactional communications. But I hadn't.

I wasn't prepared for John's time and care. For his wisdom. For the way he touched Mike's things almost reverently.

I didn't expect Mike K.'s hands-on help and attention to detail. His kindness to me, even as he has been dealing with the impending loss of an ailing parent.

And I certainly didn't expect Tom's choked-up tears as he surveyed Mike's things. Or his affection for Mike. And for me.

I didn't expect the phone calls, after word got out, or the e-mails filled with stories told by other members of the club -- all these grieving men -- of how much they loved my husband. And how much it would mean to them to own something he once owned. And please, how much would I like for this item or that?

I should have prepared myself better, but I hadn't.

These interactions have been simultaneously overwhelming, heartwarming, and awkward. There have been times I could not finish reading an email and would wait a day or two to finish.

That said, I can honestly say that these interactions have made me feel less alone. It has helped me to know just how much Mike was loved by his friends. And that they, too, are still grieving alongside me.

The other thing that adds to the heightened emotional experience of going through Mike's things is finding his secret treasures. Especially the ones that remind me that we had loved each other. These are letters and cards and small trinkets I had given him over the course of our 23-year relationship.

No, they were not all kept together in one box. I have found them in little compartments scattered about his office and closet. I had no idea he had kept so many of them.

Of course, when I find the cards and letters, I have stopped to read them.

More accurately, I have gathered them up and hugged them to my chest and taken them back to bed with me. No matter the time of day. Because there is nothing else to do but read them there.

At times, I have rooted through my own little box of mementos and read letters and cards and post-it notes that he had written on... just for me.

And the day is done.

Or at least, it feels like I could do no more. No more sorting through his things, anyway.

Even with all this, I try to go through his things every day, even if only for a few minutes, now that I have begun rolling the ball up this hill. (Or is it a mountain? At least, one hopes one can coast downhill at some point... although I doubt this very much.)

So I make the hard choices. Lots of them. Even with all the distractions and emotions.

And sometimes I ask the girls if they might like something to keep out of the day's finds.

I try to limit this, given the exhaustion in my body and in my heart. I try to do the hard work and make the decisions for them, if only to spare them the same turmoil.

This is slow work, but it also feels fast, somehow. I feel as though I am "ripping off the Bandaid" as quickly as I can, but it still feels excruciatingly slow.

One thing I am very glad about: I have always been very decisive. The decisions I have made so far, with regard to Mike's things, I have not taken back. I thank God for making me this way.

I have made a lot of progress, but I still have miles and miles to go.

And this is okay. As exhausting as it is, I do feel ready to do this hard work.

I cannot say I was ready before now.


bottom of page