Going through all those boxes of files documenting my entire life is like going through a list of things left undone, revisiting dreams that failed miserably and reliving experiences that failed to live up to my expectations.
Even organizing my desk supplies is revealing. I gathered up bags and bags of pens and highlighters scattered all over the house – hard evidence of disorganization and indulgences. Apparently instead of looking for a pen – Cliff and I would buy new ones to replenish the cups of pens beside every lamp stand and on every tiny writing nook.
Then there are all those cupboards of pie plates! Why? I never baked pies! Now the plates point out my lack of interest in the kitchen and become guilty reminders of baking skills and challenges I should have pursued.
My personal piles of memories are bad enough – but going through Cliff’s personal belongings is like walking down a trail of regrets. When I rummage through the evidence of his quest for healing, I wonder why I wasn’t more aware and more supportive.
When I see his working sketches and other evidence of an artist hard at work, I wonder why I didn’t encourage him more.
And then there are the piles of letters and cards addressed to both of us that we had received over the years dating right back to the murder of our daughter. They are beautiful cards with wonderful words – many I never answered but I kept them all. The intentions were there – the guilt remains – a thick layer of dusty guilt.
I had one month to downsize. After the book launch, I had December to do it all.
The Christmas season was lost in a messy fog of conflicting emotions. but I did it. By New Years I had sorted it out - all of it into garbage, good will or reorganized downsized storage.
I’m so glad I believe in forgiveness. I needed every ounce of it for myself. I would never have been able to complete it without murmuring the words –"please forgive me" - over me and over again.
It’s hard work transforming the layers of guilt haunting the task of downsizing into something beautiful but worth it because in the middle of each regret there is some learning, some memory that is worth it all…. like the bundle of high school letters I found. Wow! What a memory!
"Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future." - Lewis B Smedes