Recently I helped a friend go through his elderly mothers house after she had moved to assisted living.
Cleaning, discarding, donating, remembering, crying, laughing, smiling and trying to avoid the obvious thought that this life obviously once so full had dwindled down to a shower and three meals a day.
A pascal pick and mix of emotions was the only way to describe the turbulence in both of us as we explored the sacred, cherished the curls of lovingly handwritten letters from a younger hand and stopped silent over piles of scrawled to do lists that never got done.
The kitchen was a testimony to the vulnerability of older people with a fresh credit card as we opened the cupboards to a jungle of wires and useless electrical appliances brought and delivered by company’s that don’t spare a thought for the people they force goods upon.
Perhaps the hardest thing to see was the Calender on the wall in the bathroom from November 2009 the year that her husband died as if somehow keeping the date the same could stop time right before she had to face life alone.
So we sorted, silent, sacred, sifting through a full life a family home a young women with dreams a mother that raised 5 children childhood sweet hearts that carved out a life in a time we can’t retrieve.
I felt honoured to be a part of this process equally about remembering and releasing a houseful and a life time of living so that we can cherish a woman for what she was but also for what she is now.
We are going to visit her today living with her daughter the role reversal has rattled her feisty spirit and toned down her cuss word littered sentences as she struggles to remember the second half of a sentence as she gets the first part out. But I take with me a new respect for this wrinkly bad ass that’s tucked away in this sweet old lady.
Ruby is 24 years old, sex worker and social activist. Lives in Auckland