Monday, September 14, 2009

things and stuff...

My house is a mess. I've probably said that for the last....well, honestly...forever. I dream of being an organized person, but I may need to accept that, most likely, that will never happen.

When my kids died, they were on their way to spend Easter week with their dad in Buffalo. Since my divorce I had been on a couple of short vacations during which they stayed with their dad, but I had never experienced an extended period of time home alone. My plan for that week was to clean. Not to just 'red up' as they say here in Pittsburgh, but to go through all of our closets, all of their toys and all of the papers lying around the house. I wanted to get rid of everything we didn't need and find a place for everything that remained.

The cleaning never happened. Now my house is more cluttered than ever and I can't even blame it on my kids, it's completely my responsibility. I certainly need to organize my own stuff (I have no good excuse for the state of my own room) but I have a hard time disturbing any of their stuff at all...and I mean ANY of it, I'm talkin dirty tissues in the trash can. I just can't do it.

A lot of people have suggested that I can keep their stuff forever and I don't have to do anything with it. I will keep most of it, but some things just aren't realistic. For example, I took them grocery shopping on April 4th, two days before the accident. I bought them a bunch of their favorite snacks, some of which have been opened. They are all still sitting in my pantry... alphabet cookies that Kate and her friend ate the morning of the 6th, Cheddar Bunnies that they ate in the car on the way to Erie and an unopened bag of Pirate's Booty that I will probably keep as long as I live (they were all about the Pirate's Booty). There are fish sticks and Kate's mango-tangerine sorbet in the freezer and Peter's Valentine's Day (formerly pronounced "balance times day") candy in the cupboards. I recently threw out Peter's cream cheese that was in the fridge because it was starting to scare me, but it wasn't an easy thing to do.

Of course I also have all of their clothing and toys and every piece of art or psuedo-art (aka scribbling) that I could find after they died. I even went through the recycling bin for things I might have discarded. There is a lot of stuff. Whereas I wanted to organize and purge every unnecessary thing before the I want to hold onto all of it. But the truth is, it's just not reasonable.

It's not that the stuff itself makes me feel any better, but I guess it seems like it's all I have left. And, strangely enough, when I think about getting rid of something my brain always says, "hey, they might want that someday", like they're coming back. That's pretty messed up. And sad.

I have considered and looked into having some of their favorite clothing made into a quilt I can wrap myself in, and I will...when I find the motivation. I know that I'm not going to stay in this house forever so someday I will have to pack it all up. The idea of their stuff sitting in boxes sucks.

I imagine that as time passes it will become clear to me what things are important to keep and what I can let go of. So far, what has made me happiest is giving their things to people who knew them and truly appreciate them. Occasionally, I get a feeling that Kate or Peter wants someone to have something specific and I get very excited to get that particular item to the right person. It makes me feel good and I think it makes Kate and Peter happy too.


  1. My mom died unexpectedly five years ago. She didn't have much and there are six kids in my family so every little item was a treasure. I found the grocery list she made the morning she died. She didn't know she was going to die that day--she just knew she needed food for meals. I kept the note and not much else. It brings me comfort knowing that she didn't know what the day was going to bring, so there was no pain or fear.

  2. Amy,
    The quilt is such a great idea. Check out
    The woman who makes them lives in the Harrisburg area and I have seen them first hand and they are absolutely beautiful.

    I am following your blog and will continue to do so. I haven't seen you in a zillion years - and I am so proud of the person, woman, and mom you've become. In response to your previous post about heaven, I am convinced with every ounce of my being that Kate and Peter are protected and fully loved in heaven.
    Hugs and Prayers,
    Jen Ryan Sarff

  3. Amy,

    My Mom died 10 years ago and I still have jars of zucchini jelly that she made right before she died. I also have her bathrobe, her wallet, her winter coat, her drivers license, and my daughter is still driving her car. When you put the seat belt on in her car you can still smell her perfume.

    I don't know you personally Amy. My oldest daughter lives 2 houses down from your Dad. I've talked to him often while he walks his dog. I've been following your journey and I am amazed at your strength. You are a remarkable woman. Your children are safe and are loved and you will see them again.

    Ellen Kerr Ryan
    Danville, PA

  4. You know if you ever need help organizing, I'm your girl. I have my own label maker and everything! Time will give you your answer. You just have to be ready and when you are, Kate and Peter will guide your hands.

  5. I can totally relate to wanting to keep all of Kate and Peter's things! I just picked up my "new" eyeglasses from the eye doctor's. This is actually my second pair of "new" eyeglasses. This pair is the most special pair of new eyeglasses since it is the pair that my sister wore in the hospital until she took her last breath. Now I get to see through Judi's eyeglasses since I've been able to put lenses with my prescription into her frames. I probably never have to buy another frame, purse, coat, tshirt from the Gap, etc.....again. You see, these are the things that I could never allow anyone to discard after her death. This is also all that I have left of Judi.

  6. Amy - your blog, your spirit, and everything about who you are (and always have been) helped make the kids who they are, and will always keep them alive and not forgotten. And this is from an older post, but about culinary school - I know that you want to make sure that everything you do honors your kids. I think it's possible that following your own passion and living a fulfilling life for yourself may well be the most beautiful way to honor them. I think that's how they lived, and believe that they would guide you to do the same. They will be so proud to have their Mama following her heart - whatever that turns out to be. Trust it. You will find your way, and indoing so, honoring them every step of the way!

  7. I am so proud of the way you deal with your situation every single day. Writing all of your most heartfelt feelings down is so theraputic and one day, this blog should be printed out and published so that it may be of some comfort to another person who is walking in your shoes. Your children were a true blessing and you will always be their mom---and yes, I DO believe that we can feel those whom we have lost. Their souls are in heaven and their spirits visit us when we least expect it. I can hear my father laughing at certain times when my family gathers and we are remembering past happenings.
    You loss is so overwhelming---I don't know how you manage to get out of bed every day except for those who want so much to befriend you and keep you close in heart. It's healing to write and it's healing for all of us who read your blogs and to know your struggles. Kate and Peter's things bring you comfort right now. There is no time limit on how long you should keep something or when you should relinquish it.
    ALL of their things are so special----and you will know in time what to do with them and to whom they should be given.
    Many warm thoughts are with you Amy

  8. As I sit here at my desk at school I look over to the framed Christmas picture of Kate and Peter (the one where they are both wearing red) and look at their smiling faces. This is a routine I have gotten myself into and all of a sudden I am grounded. As a teacher there are days when you wonder if your student's are actually listening. For whatever reason after each and every day (and sometimes in the middle of the day) looking at that picture makes me want to be a better teacher. It eases my frustrations and reminds me to make the most of each and every day with my students and loved ones.
    I was so fortunate to know such beautiful children. Babysitting Kate and Peter was always a wonderful experience. There were moments as I was reading them a story during "Snack and Story Time" where all three of us would be laughing so hard I thought I would never wind them down in time for bed! Kate and Peter always made me smile and laugh.
    I often think of all the wonderful moments I shared with them-- making tents out of blankets, having Kate play hairdresser with my hair (complete with having me call her to schedule the appointment, sign in, and wait while she got her tools which included "real" water together. She thought of EVERYTHING! :) ), watching "Nanny McFee" and "Cars", working on art projects and so much more. My favorite memories are when we would read books. Kate and Peter would always answer my questions about the books and Peter would always give me very descriptive answers that made me laugh!
    Amy- Kate and Peter impacted my life soo much- and continue to do so. I believe adults can learn a great deal from children. I am so blessed to have learned so much from them.

  9. I don't know if you've decided to make that quilt or what you want to do. But I quilt, and I'd be MORE THAN HAPPY to work with you on it.

  10. amy, i happened upon ur blog from a link on facebook, adrienne m was a friend of mine in high school & she had posted the link today... i have a 6 yr old daughter that kept runnin through my mind the entire time i have been reading ur old posts... i am a single mother, stay-at-home (except 4 college classes that i am takin), i am in the national guard & thats 1 wkend a month, but her father has NOTHING 2 do w her & really never has, he was around 4 a handful of things after she she was born (but not the pregnancy or the birth itself) & after her second yr of life, his g/f decided that she didnt allow him 2 see her... anyway, that was off the subject, but just 2 give u some background of me... i dont mind it 1 bit that he isnt a part of her life, my family & friends r AMAZING & help me more than i want them 2 sometimes, but i have everyday & everything 2 do w her at all times & im a bit of a selfish person, so thats perfectly fine w me!!! i dont have 2 share her!!! anyway, i know that 2day is 1 yr since ur kids have been gone, a very close friend of mine lost her 3 yr daughter who was a daily playmate 4 my daughter, jonnie rae, in a fire a yr ago in jan... watchin her 'survive' the past yr, has amazed me!!! readin ur posts gave me the same feelings & thoughts that i have 4 her & i dont even know u!!! u r an incredibly strong woman & amazing in ways that i would not think i could b... i read the parts where u said that u feel or hear them somedays, & that u dont know if its 'real' or not, but i have felt & heard michelles daughter many times... so yes, that is undeniably real!!! they didnt have much left after the fire as far as the material stuff that u have, but the memories far exceed those pieces of art or used tissues :-)... im sure u feel that way, i saw where u mentioned that every once in a while u think that they r tellin u 2 give something 2 someone & u feel peace & joy in giving their stuff 2 who u think they want 2 have it... this was another thing that ive experienced w michelle... she had bought joslyn a bike & since it was outside she was able 2 salvage it, she called me 1 day in the middle of winter & said that joslyn wanted jonnie rae 2 have the bike... at first i thought she was crazy 4 thinking that joslyn had 'told' her that, she has family that r little girls & could have easily given it 2 1 of them, more so than us... never havin 2 go through those feelings myself, it took me by surprise & even a bit confused by the fact that she didnt have much left, material wise, & wanted 2 give away something that she was able 2 keep... reading ur posts about that, made me see that it wasnt just michelle who felt these things...
    again, i dont know u & u dont know me, but i felt touched by ur blog & wanted 2 share w u a few thoughts & things that i have learned by losing someone close 2 me & my daughter & having also been very young... i like where u said that u think of spring as a time where God gives all the chilren in heaven crayons & lets them paint the world, that is a beautiful thought!!! i also like the thought of the fact that some children have been given 2 us & can bring soo many people together in ways an adult could never do...
    stay strong girl, know that those 2 beautiful children r waitin on u in heaven, they r always w u, & as much as u r afraid of forgetting them or th little things, u NEVER will, they r in a beautiful place & even though they were only here 4 a short time, they left footprints (or greasy fingerprints in some cases), EVERYWHERE they went... i will b prayin 4 u today & from now on... just stay strong & believe that God has a reason 4 everything He does or does not do, we may never know the reasons while we r here on earth, but someday everything will b answered & made clear 2 us... just b patient & believe that...