A Cleaner Closet and One Step Further

Posted by Danny

Lisa’s things have been fairly untouched since she died 22 months ago.  The closet, in particular, has been crammed full of her tailored couture.  I still have her makeup.

I was visiting my parents at Thanksgiving in Fayetteville and spent an hour with an old high school friend who lost his wife 13 years ago when she was only 32.  As we talked, he asked about her stuff.  I told him I hadn’t done anything about it.  He said, “It’s time.”  The words resonated.  I knew he was right.

I’d been feeling for a while I needed to tackle that project, but I found a number of excuses not to.  This week, I faced my fear.

I decided to make three piles: 

The items I thought the girls might want to keep, and the things I just could not part with.

Clothing that I am going to have made into quilts for each girl.  Most of it colorful – I tried to choose items that represented a strong sampling of Lisa’s style – or something with strong meaning, like her favorite pajamas.  These blankets will have to be dry cleaned.  I couldn’t find a ton of meaningful cotton.

The third was the give away stack – lots of black pants and white turtle necks made it there.

It seemed that each item had a story.  Near the top of the pile were the clothes she’d worn the last six months of her life as we trekked back and forth to Duke for treatment.  Those jersey pants and long-sleeved pullovers were the first to hit the giveaway pile.  Those are not memories I’m fond of keeping.  Each article took me back to a different waiting or examining room.  A doctor’s face seemed to be stencilled on each sleeve.  The gauzy underwear for after surgery – straight to the trash can – but even they brought tears.

The white jacket she was wearing the day she told me she had cancer.  It may leave the house, but it will never leave my memory.

The dress she wore at Michelle’s baptism – the picture in the bedroom stands as the reminder. 

The skirt she wore when she volunteered us to work the coat closet at the Governor’s inauguration.  An hour of work in return for rubbing elbows with Jim Hunt – a fair trade.  I’ll have to admit, she looked so good I would have liked to “inaugurate” the closet.  I asked – she wouldn’t.

Only once did she hire a personal shopper – and she did so without my preshopping knowledge.  It was for her 20th class reunion.  She proudly told me that although the outfit was expensive, I’d be glad to know she didn’t buy the $600 pair of shoes that her advisor suggested.  The pants, blouse and the shoes she did buy, I kept.  My favorite picture of us was taken that night.

The hardest part was her underwear.  Isn’t that funny?  Maybe it was the intimacy of those items.  I kept my favorites.

At one point, it dawned on me the dollar investment of all of these things.  Thousands of dollars I’m sure.  And now, 60% of them will be given away or cut into flower pedals. 

It’s just stuff I tell myself.  Lisa doesn’t live in items – she lives in our hearts and minds. 

Yeah – keep telling yourself that buddy.  You still buy her brand of conditioner and sniff it like a cocaine addict.

But this is progress – yes, this is progress.

Leave a comment


  1. Helen LaVere

     /  December 28, 2011

    Hugs from the LaVeres. I LOVE the quilt idea – Philip has a quilt made of one of his grandfather’s pajamas, among other things. It is an amazing and wonderful idea.

  2. Reading your post reminded me of the day I tackled Jason’s room…in retrospect, many things I would have done differently. My husband was anxious to sell our home after Jason died, and I really wasn’t up to that particular task at the time. Probably should have waited until I was ready…hindsight is 20/20, isn’t it?

    The quilt idea is wonderful…something your girls will cherish forever!!

  3. Hopie

     /  December 28, 2011

    Tough progress, but progress. I’m proud of you, and my heart is with you…

  4. Aunt Susan

     /  December 28, 2011

    ADORE the quilt idea, how wonderful and what a fab rememberance. one of the best, and what a way to heal. You are healing, it shows in many many ways. It was wonderful sharing time and memoires with you on the “eve”.

  5. I like the quilt idea too. Seems your friend was right and you dealt with it and had to gut it out. This day will also be a memorable one. A step and a day at a time.

  6. Norma Pedersen

     /  January 1, 2012

    After my grandmother passed away, a dear friend not only made quilts, but made teddy bears with some of the cloth that was left over. I have saved these bears to give to my children and grandchildren.

  7. Having cleaned out my parents closets, I know just a bit of what a devastating job this can be. I saved a few boxes of clothes from my dad with the intention of having quilts made. Let me know if you find someone. I’ve made some inquiries over the years but haven’t found anyone yet to tackle such a special job. Thinking of you.


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