Yesterday, I was reading a short article about the hottest new fashion items for spring. There is always an article like this at every change of season. The absolute essential ten pieces you need in your wardrobe to survive the next four months.
I don’t always buy into the fashion of the month, but the change of season does bring a sense of renewal, and the urge to purge my closet.
So, yesterday, I did just that. I dove into that closet and starting pulling things from hangers and shoving them into bags for the Goodwill. Haven’t worn it in six months? Good bye. Don’t need the stuffy business suits of years gone by? Off they go. Pants too tight? Adios. Pants too loose? Good bye, but let’s take a moment to celebrate shall we?
If you’re like me, you have The “Armageddon” Closet. It is prepared for any wardrobe scenario you may be faced with.
Faced with a tornado, followed by a frost warning, with an evening of rain? I have this jacket I’ve held onto for just that very day. On a diet of lettuce? Choose the pants on the left. Having a love affair with Oreos and Ruffles? Pants on the right please. Zombie attack? I have an outfit with enough pockets to accommodate the various weapons required to save yourself and those you love from the wrath of the undead.
But really, who needs it? Is my closet living in the present moment? Do I need to be prepared for every wardrobe scenario?
So, I purge. There is a steady stream of clothes flying out of my closet. It feels good to clean out, to gut, to purge. It is good to get rid of old clothes and the memories attached to them, to make room for new stuff, perhaps, dare I say, a new size that is more acceptable to me?
And then I find it. A shelf full of memories. The first was one of Stephen’s t-shirts. I remember holding this item close to me so many lonely days. If I closed my eyes and smelled the shirt, it almost felt like he was still here. Next I found some papers, school stuff from his younger days, pictures I had tucked away in this private space for me alone. And finally, I found his bag. It was filled with vitamins, allergy medicine, dental floss and contact solution. I’m sure he just emptied his medicine cabinet into this bag before he came home for summer. Everything was neat and organized, and labeled. So Stephen.
I’m not sure why, in the 20 months or so since losing him, I have not emptied the bag, or thrown it out entirely. I’ve just let it sit there. I’ve looked at it several times, knowing I need to do something with it, but never being able to actually make the move. There is something about the bag and its contents. It reminds me of his personality. It leaves a lingering scent of his life, even after all this time, when most of the fragrance has dissipated.
And so, I sit in my closet and I cry. I look at his organized dental flosses and I cry all over again for someone who is gone too soon.
And I realize. No matter what the season change, or what the fashion magazines say about this year’s hottest looks, there is one item I will always have in my closet. My lead jacket of grief. Most days, it hangs there. I look at it each morning, but choose to wear something else. But every now and again, regardless of the weather or season, I will wear it for a little while. I will put it on and allow myself to once again feel the pains of a loss so tremendous that I could never find the words to adequately describe it.
The jacket is heavy, but comfortable in a way as well. It hugs into you, and reminds you of the love you share with the person lost, and how that love still surrounds you to this day. There are always tissues in the pocket of the lead jacket. The heaviness of the garment forces you to slow down, to release some of the minutia of daily life, and just be with the sadness. In your stillness, sitting with the grief, you remember, you lament, and you heal yourself all over again.
You don’t have to wear it often, but you will always return to this important piece of your wardrobe. It is important that you do. It is the only piece in your closet that will teach you something each time you wear it.
For me, I wore it for a couple of hours yesterday. I’m not sure when I will try it on again. But I know I feel different today because I did take the time yesterday to let myself feel the weight of the jacket and my continued sadness over the loss of my son. I feel lighter, for allowing the built up sadness to just get out. I feel like I can go a little further. I feel like I have once again been reminded of what matters in this life. It is okay to feel the sadness, and then move forward and live a happy life, wiser because you were brave enough to acknowledge it.
The lead jacket. Not just for spring. And a piece of your wardrobe that will always fit.
Take some time today to look in your closet. Find your own lead jacket. We all have one. Don’t be afraid to try it on once and a while and see what you find out about yourself.
Kelly Buckley writes about her life after the sudden death of her 23 year old son, Stephen. She recently published a book, Gratitude in Grief, about finding little things to feel grateful for in the first two months following Stephen’s death. She also blogs here: gratitudeingrief.blogspot.com
You can get info about her book here: gratitudeingrief.com