Death comes in threes, they say. And from 2005 to 2008, I’d have to say that proved true. One intense loss each year and a few peripheral-yet-impactive losses between. Over the years my house began moonlighting as a shrine, my garage shelves filled with boxes I couldn’t open yet, my closet with clothes I wore as remembrance. You see, as childless queers it often feels like there is a greater obligation to carrying forth, to honor legacy. Our things don’t go to our children when we pass. They go to partners, to friends, to often-estranged families. And we tend to scatter ourselves to the wind when we leave home — precious few folks I know live in the same state as their parents (myself excluded.) We seek one another out and form our own families and our belongings disburse into the collective when we pass. In some ways, letting go of these tangibles feels like letting go of something more important. And so I haven’t. Until now.
My friend C’s death came on the heels of the two others, and was more sudden and heartbreaking in its arrival. As her closest friend, it fell to me to take the coroner’s call, to call friends and pass on the news and to clean out her apartment. I was joined in this last endeavor by a community of friends I will forever be grateful to. The work was quick and done so I could get on to the heavier task of grieving. Most of the tangibles were given away or donated, but the memory bits – journals, photos, baby clothes, artwork, all the deeply personal bits – came home with me. Estranged from her family, there was a great deal of personal information I knew C wouldn’t want them to see. I needed to sort through it all before I sent it back. Shortly after C’s passing, another friend was diagnosed with cancer and I simply couldn’t deal with it all. I put the boxes in the garage and I shut the door, figuratively and literally. That was 2 years ago.
As a part of letting go of this house, I knew I would need to go through C’s boxes. I’m sloughing off my skin here, and shedding this grief is part of that process. So yesterday, with a bottle of whiskey and a fire pit at the ready, a friend and I set to work consolidating what was to be mailed, removing what was too private, cooing over baby photos and crying over random bits of all of it. When the family box was packed, we moved to the fire pit and began the work of setting fire to years and years of her sadness. As each page burned, it felt like lifting a weight from her psychic shoulders. No more wondering, no more self-loathing, no more confusion, no more pain. The last thing I burned was a piece of canvas on which she’d painted a serene water/sunrise scene. It was bright blues and gentle yellows and a hint of pink. I set her there in my mind as I watched it go.
SansLux is not just about consumerism. It’s also about releasing the tangible ties that bind us to pain. It’s about embracing impermanence. Mine. Yours. Ours.
Three bins were the last remnants of C’s life on earth. At the end of the day, what was left filled only a small box. But inside that box is the promise that she had as a child, before the world caught her up and swept her under. And in the fire that burned, burned the pain that came when that promise was broken. And in between is where I live, carrying with me all the mixed beauty of this daring, devious, damaged and loved being that was my friend. And so I don’t have much of her left to carry in my hands — but I am by no means emptier for it.
Love you, C. So much.