Dear John

I’ve just spent about three hours sorting out some of your things and putting your clothes in about four big bags, for charity.  It’s still only the tip of the iceberg, there is so much stuff, I’ll have to ask someone to come and collect it at some point.  Of course it has some value – there are suits and brand new trousers and dozens of nice shirts – but I can’t see myself trying to sell it.  It would be too complicated to lug it all to a boot sale or try and sell it online and send it to people.  I’m happy to give it away and hope that the money it raises will help someone, or maybe even the clothes themselves will be worn and appreciated somewhere – like I saw on a TV programme relatively recently about the second hand clothes business in West Africa.

Oh what a horrible task to have to do in your life, to clear out your dead husband’s things.  I get waves of sadness and crying, but then sometimes feel a bit stronger.  It’s just a task that has to be done, and it’s just appropriate that I do it.  I was the closest person to you, it’s my responsibility.  I need to check everything – I’m going through all the pockets – in order to make sure nothing important is missed, and to protect you from anything that might be private.  (No secrets discovered yet.)

Oh John, it’s such a record of your life.  I have kept some things as ‘souvenir’ clothes, the things that were most familiar to me or had some significance.

Oh John, it looks like you haven’t thrown anything out for a long time, some of the clothes are so old, so small in size.

There were the lovely coloured shirts you bought to go on the Caribbean cruise.  There was an old leather jacket, that I remember you wearing many years ago when we first met.  There were various swimming trunks, which I’ve just thrown away, along with underwear.  No-one would want those second hand, and you wouldn’t have wanted anyone else wearing them.

And the recent work shirts, all the very familiar ones that I’ve ironed for you so often over the years.  It’s heartbreaking, John.  It’s so making me reflect (too much probably) on life and death.  It comes to us all, I suppose.  To live for years, take life for granted, do your washing, choose the things you want to wear.

But then there’s going to be the day that you suddenly don’t ever come home, and someone is left with all those awful, personal mementos of you.  The very shirts off your back.

There is so much of your stuff to go through, John, it will take me months and months, and I fear what I’ll find and how it will make me feel.

I’ve been trying to say to myself today – well, John, you’ve lost your life, which is a much worse thing.  If it falls to me to have to sort things out for you afterwards, that’s no trouble.  Please consider it an act of love.

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