To Keep Or Not to Keep that is the Grief ?

100_2411How to dispense with our deceased loved one’s things and when is such a difficult question to answer. How long do I leave his room untouched? How long will those clothes hang in the closet? Do I continue to display his photos? What do I do with all those important possessions? Society will say get rid of everything ASAP and move on, but that is the wrong answer. There is no right answer. It is an individual choice that takes time to figure out. Just remember not to let “things” interfere with your grief. I found the more of his possessions I gave away the more I healed and celebrated his life. That is what worked for me. What works for you?uniform What I have done over the past 4 years is gradually shared William’s things with people I knew could either use them or would keep them safe in their care. Many of his personal items had connections to these wonderful people. For instance, all his military gear and uniforms were returned to Camp Le Jeune soon after he died hoping other marines and sailors from his platoon could put them to good use. Two years later I received the following message which mended a huge piece of my broken heart: <<Mrs. Keys, I do have to say that tonight I brought Will into the delivery room with me. He used to have this camouflage bandana I ended up with it when you sent a box of his military garbs. I got to wear it in the operating room when I scrubbed in to help the doctor deliver our little girl. Lots of love to you and yours and we thank you for the well wishes.>>


the perfect book for barracks living

Next month will mark 4 years since William died and I am still sharing his stuff. I told you it takes time. Just recently I sent this cookbook to my friend Debbie of Culinary Cellar fame. The time was right. I had the privilege of visiting with Debbie and her thousands of treasured cook books back when William was in boot camp at Great Lakes, IL. This book, a Christmas gift from me to him, was hard to part with, but I knew there was no one better than Debbie to keep it safe. Turns out Debbie is “honored” to have it and knew the author to be a judge at several of the Pillsbury Bake-Offs. I wonder if David Joachim was at the bake-off in San Diego on the day William decided to join the Navy?

no surprise I wrote: "be safe" on the inside cover

no surprise I wrote: “be safe” on the inside cover

When it comes to cooking there is never any question that I keep a few canned goods in my pantry. How and when to use them is easy. I use a lot of canned beans like chick peas and kidney beans and tons of canned tomatoes and coconut milk. Although I haven’t tried these recipes I thought I’d share a few that appealed to William.

shrimpcoconut chicken

20 thoughts on “To Keep Or Not to Keep that is the Grief ?

    • I love that his fellow marines and sailors keep in touch. They are amazing and thoughtful and have really helped me heal.

  1. I treasure the sniper tee shirt you gave me as well as the camo shirt (same one as pictured). I would have great difficulty deciding what to keep and give away. I think about William every day and try to focus on all the wonderful memories we have of him. Hugs Lisa! xoxo
    PS: I love those “Man & Can” cookbooks!

  2. Seems like a great book for bachelors. May have to try that shrimp cocktail recipe.

    • Perfect book for bachelors, dorm living or for those who live in the barracks and only have a microwave. Lots of great recipes!

  3. Lisa, Kristina and I are putting up our feet for 1/2 hour until the next event at the Home & Housewares Show, so I decided to turn on my iPad and just read your blog. I am still in awe of having William’s cookbook. It will be treasured forever and I am so honored you trusted me with it. I feel chills just touching it. Thank you for the privilege to have it on my shelves. Love you my friend.

    • Having this very special book in your care makes me happy. I am grateful for your connection to my family.

  4. TY for your story.This month marks the 2nd anniversary of my Toms death. We met in hs, courted in college and shared 2 daughters & 40 years of marriage. We had known each other 50 years.
    So hard. As a professional he dressed every day so I had a drawer full of beautiful ties . I actually had emergency eye surgery the day after he died but went thru his ties and pulled one for each of our immediate family / friends at the celebration dinner. His fun teacher ties went to his nephew to carry on the tacky tradition of holiday tied ( much like sweaters for females.
    His $$& tie went to my brother the CPA, his Red Sox ties to his brother. This started my healing. It helps. When his nephew got married I sent him Toms Shaker box from his bureau. Each gift releases tears but it is a cleansing. Like you I sent his clothes to a Navy vet in need. Slowly his things are dwindling but great thought helps.
    God Bless

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am so sorry you lost your Tom. What a blessing to be able to share his ties and the Shaker box with so many wonderful people. “Each gift is a cleansing” I love the way you think. It reassures me that I am doing the right thing.

  5. Oh Lisa, your writing is strong and full of common sense and still I cry. I think that sharing Will’s things will continue to keep his memory alive in so many hearts. It’s been 32 years and Jeffrey’s special toys and clothes are still in my attic. Why? I just can’t bear to toss them in the trash so they remain with me until I am gone. It’s so wonderful that you have shared Will’s things with people who treasure them, what a beautiful idea. Hugs to you and thank you so much for this blog.

    • Oh, my friend–holding onto Jeffrey’s toys and clothes is perfectly normal. They are indeed special. I have many of William’s possessions that I know I will never part with. I don’t think I could throw one thing away ever. Thank you for reading and sharing. xoxo

  6. I can’t tell you the emotions that your timely post addressed as our family grapples with how we will deal with Aidan’s room and belongings. My children and I have already worn many of AJ’s clothes. Sometimes seeking comfort and other times out of necessity. My daughter needed athletic pants since hers were all too dirty (lol) and his lacrosse goalie stick and gloves sit in my husbands truck. Every item requires great thought.
    I shared your post with my husband and children. They read it thoughtfully. Dinner was quiet, but I think they learned that they are not alone in trying to know the right thing to do with AJ’s things. Thank you

    • Your story brings tears to my eyes. I wear one of William’s sweatshirts all the time and I still hold on to a bottle of his cologne just to remind me of his sweet smell. I wish I could wrap my arms around your whole family, but until then I send you strength and cyberhugs. Take your time as every item is so special.

  7. Your posts are always so heartwarming to me, someone who has lost many loved ones, but never a child. You are such an example of strength and grace in the face of the most unimaginable pain and loss.

    • Not the easiest stuff to read so the fact that you hang out with me here leads me to believe that you are a strong and giving person. Thank you x 100!

  8. {{{HUGS}}} to you, Lisa. Hard to believe it is nearly 4 years. You will always know the right time for you to do what you must.

  9. I take special care when I clean Cole’s room and come across Will’s sunglasses. I love your stories Lisa.

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