You can’t take it with you. Anyone who has sorted the things of a dead friend has experienced this first-hand. There’s just so much stuff left behind that has no meaning. It reminds me of the scene in “The Christmas Carol” when the servants are selling Scrooge’s things to a “fence”. When someone dies, their things become merely things again – no longer belongings – because the only person with attachment to them is gone.
I helped the parents of a dead friend do that today. We threw away a lot of stuff. We put other things into the laundry basket to take to Goodwill. We each took home small mementos of his life. He didn’t own much, perhaps somehow he just understood the temporary nature of life. I know that my friend chose to spend most of his money on being out with other people.
In the end he’s gone and out of reach and all that’s left is his memory and his meaning. All his stuff is boxed or discarded and the room he lived in is empty now; only the cats of the house will spend time there until another renter moves in.
I wonder if everyone who cared about my friend is asking the same questions I am? What meaning did he have in my life, what did he teach me, and how am I changed by knowing him? How do I remember him and can his death provide some hope, inspiration, or can it deepen my appreciation of life?
Or does his death merely reflect the emptiness of life, the deep black hole of troubles with no answers; does it reflect the hopelessness and pain we feel with loss of love?
I wish I knew what his death means. I wish I had the answers. But I am still coming to terms with the fact that he’s simply not here to have dinner with, or go to the movies with, or laugh with. I am still coming to terms with the empty space in my life, like the empty dim room he rented where long-whiskered cats prowl silently round wondering where he has gone.
(I wrote this back in May of 2009 after my friend Michael Perkins passed away unexpectedly. I just came across it tonight sorting old posts. Michael was a great person and he’s still missed.)