Posted by: Robin~AllThingsHeartandHome | October 2, 2008

Lessons left behind…


Continued from yesterday…

Mike and I hurriedly set about packing up Evelyn’s life. I was going through the kitchen and putting her things into a big box. Her china. Cream with a coral border. Her smallish coffee mugs. She must have sipped her coffee I thought. I like huge mugs.

I got to the kitchen drawer where she kept her “house papers”. Amazing. There was information on pretty much every single thing in the house. Appliances, cordless phones, clocks, lamps, light fixtures. Everything. I was impressed with Evelyn’s attention to detail. I felt I was getting to know her. Who she was. How she lived. I moved a little slower as I packed.

 On to the pantry. Uber organized. Oh this is my kind of pantry! Boxes of Special-K cereal never opened. Canned food that would have held her over for weeks. I smiled when I saw the three boxes of Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chip Cookies. I connected with her immediately. I am a cookie lover too. But all three were unopened. A big bag of bite size Butter-finger Candy Bars. Again never opened. I wonder why she never opened these?

 Earlier, I’d come across a drawer full of Weight Watcher’s pamphlets. Like every woman, she must have battled her weight. Maybe worrying about her weight was the reason the cookies and candy weren’t opened. I totally related to her on this. I have been consumed with my weight for as long as I remember. My weight on any given day can determine my level of happiness. 

 Then I saw the 24 cans of ginger ale and the 12 cans of chicken and rice soup and remembered…she was a cancer patient. Most likely she spent many days sick to her stomach. How sad. How important was her weight then? I imagine her cancer quickly put her weight into perspective. I felt ashamed knowing that my weight was still such a concern for me. Something so superficial seemed absurd compared to cancer.

 I moved on to the master bath. Drawers and cabinets full. Medicines everywhere. Medicines to fight infection, nausea, depression. A little box full of big “T” shaped straight pins. For wigs. She must have lost her hair. Was she terribly sad about loosing her hair? I’m obsessed with my hair. I’m always trying to get it to do something amazing…like look good for an entire day. But what if I lost all of my hair like Evelyn? I bet I would long for even the “bad” hair days… without thinking, my hand touched my head and I whispered a prayer of thanks for the hair God gave me.

 Her closet was full of clothes. She had vests and dresses that were adorned with seasonal details like fall leaves or sunflowers. All hanging neatly at attention. Waiting to be worn. I touched them, closed my eyes and leaned in close. This is what I did every time I went to my mom’s house after she died. I wanted to remember the way she smelled. Her perfume. Her lotions. I couldn’t get a sense of Evelyn’s perfume. Maybe it had been too long.

 Front and center, hanging with the tag still attached, was a beautiful new Christmas red dress trimmed in delicate cream lace. Did she plan on wearing it this Christmas? I almost couldn’t breathe as I realized how much time I’d spent lately worrying about not having enough money for Christmas. I know money would have been a non-issue for Evelyn. Being alive and being with those you love would have been more than enough. “I’m sorry” I heard myself say. And I meant it.

 I moved to her office across the hall.  In the closet, on the top shelf was a huge box of red envelopes. My heart sank as I realized what they were. Christmas cards. Most were already addressed, just waiting to be sealed, stamped and sent…she planned on being here this Christmas. She must have been using her “down time” when she was sick to get ahead for the holiday. Buy a new dress to wear to parties. Address her Christmas cards. I brushed away a tear remembering that for me, sometimes in the busy month of December, the simple pleasure of sending out Christmas cards, becomes just another unwanted task and burden. Right then I made up my mind to start early and take the time to tell each and every person on my “list” how much I love them.

 On her bookshelf, I found several gardening books. Some of them looked like they had never been opened. She must have dreamed of feeling better and working in her yard. After putting the books into a box, I slipped out the back door to look around. There in a flower bed on the side of the house, were several encore azaleas, all still in the 5 gallon pots. They were carefully placed where she wanted them but never planted. She must not have felt up to digging the holes. My mind filled with all the times I’ve gotten overwhelmed and aggrivated with keeping up my house and yard.

 “I’m sorry God”. I breathed a prayer. And at that moment in Evelyn’s backyard to the background melody of her wind chimes, my life looked different than it had just hours before. In packing up Evelyn’s life, I had somehow unpacked a little of my own..

(We found out a bit more about Evelyn later that day when some of her family came to the house. I’ll share that tomorrow if your curious)




  1. I am always amazed at you ability to see past the surface of things. I was only focused on getting the house cleaned out and never once did I consider Evelyn. I guess this is a lesson to me also- slow down and enjoy and don’t just accomplish tasks and meet objectives. Society does this to us, but I have to figure out how to beat it. I love you – Me

  2. From one writer to another, this is beautiful, Robin.

    I love you,


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