My daughter inherited my mother’s strand of pearls. They were housed in a silk case that was very worn and I replaced it with one of mine, more worthy of the cherished heirloom. I was then faced with the dilemma; what to do with the silk case that my mother’s hands touched every time she wore her beloved pearls?

Mourning my mother’s death, I could not part with the case and placed it in my handbag. For months I felt a sense of warmth every time my fingers came in contact with the case. Eventually I changed handbags and removed the case, now all but forgotten.

This past month I was cleaning out storage boxes and came across two family heirlooms. While removing them from the box I unearthed the worn silk case. I thought, so that’s where I put it. Obviously I could not part with it over the past fifteen years, but what do I do with it now?

We are all faced with these types of dilemmas. Not everything that belonged to a deceased loved one is a cherished heirloom. But, the items that our loved ones frequently used become the vivid reminders of who they were and what we lost and many are hard to discard. One friend kept a coat, others wore sweaters, tee shirts, a bathrobe, and even a wallet. We wear and use them to sustain the connection or bring us comfort. At some point, they become even more faded, worn, and tattered, and then what do we do?

My mother gave my family a gift; she donated and organized the remainder of her belongings and left a meticulous estate. I want to do the same so I have begun to have periodic meetings with my daughters. I feel it is a gift to them if we can sort out possessions while I’m still able. I share the story behind specific items and they let me know if they would like it now, later, or never. I can then either pass it to them, someone else, or donate.

It brings me pleasure to see others use treasured objects and I feel comfortable in a more tidy home. Cleaning a closet, drawer, or storage box can be a positive way to end a year and start a new one.  

Image: Flickr Creative Commons/Christina Ann VanMeter

Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now at a reduced price for e-books for "Illness & Death," "Suicide," "Miscarriage," "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store.

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