Today we packed things for Mom's move.
The list of furniture is straightforward: a bed, a bedside table, a chair, something to put a television on. Items easily placed into the back of the truck my father has driven for years.
We swapped the bed that she has slept in for years - the frame that they have had literally as long as I can remember - for one that has been in another bedroom. She asked us several times where the bed was going; we simply said we were taking it to have something fixed on it and would have it back to her soon. She eventually decided that everything was okay, but still occasionally asked about the other empty bedroom until we closed the door, thus effectively making the issue disappear.
This, frankly, was the easy part.
My sister went about gathering the known things she would need: clothing, sheets, towels, toiletries. She also had the difficult task of choosing personal items.
The facility had certain suggestions: not too many photographs, some memorabilia from her life, a few things that will remind her of home.
How do you decide?
How do you take the totality of items of a life long lived and boil it down, not just to items that might be essential, but to items which you think might actually having meaning to someone whose memory is failing? How do you choose? Is it based on familiarity, on things you think that they will remember, or something that you have heard them express delight in that you yourself have no memory or connection to? I understand, of course, that this is not something that cannot easily be rectified - we can take something down within the day - but based on her memory, who knows that this items are what we think they are or retain what we think they will?
My sister did a far better job than I could have, I think: small things from her teaching career, a jewelry box adorned with the poppies she loves, pictures of her immediate family and parents (who, frankly, she often recognizes on sight more than us). It all rests now, the furniture laden truck a sentry in a February that is strangely sunny now, the filled bins split between the Ranch and my sister's. The packed up memories of a life, compressed to the equivalent of a small pick-up truckload of items.
We always say that creating memories is more important, more important than the things that fill our life. But what happens when those memories fade, becoming ghosts in our mind which flit in and out at their own convenience, leaving us nothing but ash to grasp at?