Keep Grief Weird
Keep Grief Weird Podcast
Episode 6 - The Stuff

Episode 6 - The Stuff

MC here. This is the one where we talk about what remains.

The stuff you are left with. Grief, kitchen tables and armoires, mysterious notes and photos, memories, dress shirts, and, well, you get the drift.

Speaking of mysterious notes, I found this in one of my mom’s books a couple of years ago and have no idea what it means. It was tucked inside a greeting card inside a book. Tracy and I sat down and pondered it together for a few minutes last week and came up with basically nothing. This is part of what gets left behind and part of what it is to be a griever - to be haunted by questions that you can never get answered.

Mom, what did you mean?

Speaking of books, there are two beautiful passages that touch on the things that remain and the way those things can unravel us. The first is from a memoir called Two Years Before the Mast, by Richard Henry Dana. He writes about losing a man at sea, which you might not think would resonate, but it does because all specific losses have something general to say about loss.

Death is at all times solemn, but never so much so as at sea. A man dies on shore; his body remains with his friends, and "the mourners go about the streets;" but when a man falls overboard at sea and is lost, there is a suddenness in the event, and a difficulty in realizing it, which give to it an air of awful mystery. A man dies on shore—you follow his body to the grave, and a stone marks the spot… Then, too, at sea—to use a homely but expressive phrase—you miss a man so much. A dozen men are shut up together in a little bark, upon the wide, wide sea, and for months and months see no forms and hear no voices but their own, and one is taken suddenly from among them, and they miss him at every turn. It is like losing a limb. There are no new faces or new scenes to fill up the gap… You miss his form, and the sound of his voice, for habit had made them almost necessary to you, and each of your senses feels the loss.

We had hardly returned on board with our sad report, before an auction was held of the poor man's clothes… Accordingly, we had no sooner got the ship before the wind, than his chest was brought up upon the forecastle, and the sale began. The jackets and trowsers in which we had seen him dressed but a few days before, were exposed and bid off while the life was hardly out of his body, and his chest was taken aft and used as a store-chest, so that there was nothing left which could be called his. Sailors have an unwillingness to wear a dead man's clothes during the same voyage, and they seldom do so unless they are in absolute want.

This passage starts out by pointing out what is different about loss at sea and loss at land, but this position that the sailors find themselves in - wanting to make use of the things that remain but having a superstition about using them on the same voyage - that’s the same one we find ourselves in when we are left with someone’s belongings. They are comforting and haunting, an anchor and a burden.

I also talked about a passage from The Great Gatsby that made a huge impression on me before I had even lost anyone. In it, F. Scott Fitzgerald has us peek in on one of Daisy’s grief waves. It’s anticipatory grief because she’s in love with Jay but already married so can’t have him, and also Fitzgerald is foreshadowing his death. Oh, spoiler alert: Gatsby dies. If you didn’t already know that, the book was written in 1925 and has been made into a movie like nine times.

Here’s the quote MC read from The Great Gatsby:

He took out a pile of shirts and began throwing them one by one before us, shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel which lost their folds as they fell and covered the table in many-colored disarray. While we admired the soft rich heap mounted higher, shirts with stripes and scrolls and plaids and coral and apple green and lavender and faint orange with monograms of Indian blue. Suddenly with a strange sound Daisy bent her head into the shirts and began to cry stormily.

I remember thinking in the midst of intense grief after my Dad died that I didn’t realize how much you could miss someone’s shirts until I experienced my own losses. Why didn’t anyone tell me how much you lose when you lose someone? Well, I guess Fitzgerald had told me. Anyway.

Here’s an important takeaway form our conversation:

If you are in a situation where you have to sell or donate or get rid of stuff and you are tortured about it, know this: you cannot lose the person you lost again. You will not lose them any more than you already have. Yes, losing the stuff is sad. It is it’s own grief.

But you cannot lose the person you lost again.

We’ll get to MUSIC in another episode, but we recorded this one around Christmas, and so here are the Christmas albums that Suz and Bev loved:

Tracy uncovered an old newspaper in her storage unit and found BEV! This happened a couple of years before Tracy was born. If Bev didn’t save EVERYTHING Tracy wouldn’t have seen this.

And here’s Bob’s biblical skiing note, tucked right into The Book of Chronicles, because duh:

Want to know how to copy and paste a URL into INTERNET EXPLORER?? Bev made us notes! She would be mad that she didn’t add the extra S in address.

Here’s one of Tracy’s favorite kitchen items from Bev- a potato peeler!

MC here - it’s one of my favorite kitchen items too! In talking about grief and stuff and the stuff of grief, we realized that we both have the exact same one. When my parents were in what would be their final years, they loved to cruise Williams Sonoma and in particular the tools section. They weren’t big shoppers, but they had reached a stage in life where they could replace some of their rattier things with things they loved. One by one, they upgraded way outdated kitchen gadgets (like - way) with fine RÖSLE ones.

I remembered this a few years ago and have started (very slowly) to follow in their footsteps. And this is how you end up with Amazon Basics flatware and a beautiful RÖSLE potato peeler. I’ll get there.

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Keep Grief Weird
Keep Grief Weird Podcast
Welcome to "Keep Grief Weird," the podcast where we embrace the quirky, the unexpected, and the deeply personal sides of dealing with loss.