Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Amanda Lamb: The Last Box

Posted October 28, 2012

I boiled my mother's life down in to 31 boxes. They were stacked neatly in my garage floor to ceiling full of the practical (dishes, towels), the impractical (paperweights, purses) and the sentimental (yearbooks, letters).

Although, I tend to be a very type-A person, I kept procrastinating in the unpacking process. I would go days without opening a box, and then, suddenly, I would feel compelled to go to downstairs to the garage at 9 at night and unpack boxes. But with each box came new revelations. Why did I bring this? Did she really look like that in high school? Was her handwriting really that perfect? Each box proved to be its own mini-journey in itself. Sometimes, one box would take an hour, while others took just a few minutes.

I couldn't figure out why I was procrastinating so much. I am a person who tends to jump headfirst into a project. I have intense discipline when it comes to getting something done. I set personal deadlines and rarely let anyone or anything disrupt my schedule. But in this situation, I was almost paralyzed by my inability to finish.

Yet, as I unpacked the last box this past week, I realized what was taking me so long. As long as I had boxes to unpack, I have memories to relive, explore, and even some new ones to discover. But once the boxes were empty, the tangible elements of my mother's life were disappearing. In a way, it felt like she was disappearing, fading from my memory. I was having trouble remembering her smell, the sound of her voice, the feeling of her arms around me.

This past weekend, I spent time reminiscing about my mother with my cousins, her nieces. I brought with me a few of the items I had unpacked the previous week. We read some of the letters, poems and journal entries that my mother had written. We also read letters written to her by her parents while she was in college.

What I realized was that I don't need boxes to keep her memory alive. Sure, it's nice to look down at my hand and see a ring she used to wear, or to smell her perfume that I've sprayed on a blanket, but she will always live on in my heart.

Eventually, I know that I will be able to recall things about my mother with more smiles and less tears. Grief is like a dark tunnel. Intellectually, you know the other side exists, but when you're smack dab in the middle, you can't see the light. Still, I know it is just around the bend...

Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including three on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.



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  • storchheim Oct 29, 2012

    Thank you for this series. I recently lost the woman I'd have chosen as a mother, and though I only had to write a letter of condolence, it took a long time. Because it was the last thing I would ever do for her. As I reluctantly put it in the mailbox, I felt as if I were losing her all over again. You've written it much more eloquently than I could.

  • lec02572 Oct 29, 2012

    You have hit it right on the head. There is almost a fear that when you unpack the last box that your mother or her memories will be gone. After you unpacked the last box you realized that you didn't need the boxes to keep her memory alive. There will be a time when you will be able to remember with more smiles than tears. It is different for each of us. My mother died 10 years ago next month and there are more smiles than tears, but even today I still have a few tears for our loss. You write so well and put you are able to express feelings which match my own so often. Thank you again for your writing.

  • labet70 Oct 28, 2012

    It took me 3 years to clean out my mothers closet. Each attempt often left me in tears unable to continue. What you have stated about grief rings so true. Losing my mother completely broke my heart. It took time to recover and have my memories of her bring smiles instead of tears.