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Sat Apr 16 2016 |
I experienced two deaths within days of each other this month, first my beloved Aunt Lily and then my dear friend's mom, Sylvia. Both women were family matriarchs, and despite being in their 90s, their deaths are difficult for family and friends. As I sat in the house my aunt had lived in for more than 60 years, I realized that I would never return, never see her unique wallpaper, or sit on the carefully-selected furniture, or admire the art objects she had collected on exciting trips around the world - several of which I shared with her.
A house is more than the sum total of the objects we put in it, but I couldn't stop thinking about how I would miss these familiar objects and how complicated it would be for the family to deal with them.
Years ago I had to close up my father's apartment and deal with my parents' furniture and the objects they had collected for almost 75 years together. I donated as much as I could and had the rest shipped to a storage unit near my home in another state. Every few days I would go to the unit and bring home a box or two to unpack. I had expected that I would be adding to my collection with my mom's porcelain, silver, and art, because these were all a vivid part of my childhood. But, I found little in each box that I wanted to keep - each item had my mother's touch and related to my parent's life but didn't fit with my own decor or style. Things that seemed perfect to me as a child in reality had chips and cracks. I decided to keep a few representative items, like my mom's needlepoint piano bench, the few cups and saucers from her large collection that I had given to her as birthday gifts, two 1950s silk scarves from my parents' trip to Paris, the demitasse spoons engraved with the name of a famous hotel (your secret is safe with me, Mom). I selected a few of the doilies she had crocheted commuting on the train to see my father when he was in Army basic training during World War II. I cut the fabric flower off the dress she wore to my wedding. I donated the rest. In less than three months I could give up the storage unit because it was empty.
Feng Shui was developed in China to help locate family graves in the most auspicious location. The basic rule was "water in front of the grave, mountain behind, and luxuriant plants around," which was supposed to protect the offspring and bring them peace, health, fortune, good luck, and other positive qualities. My aunt joins my parents, uncle, and grandparents in the family plot in a location that comes pretty close to this Feng Shui rule. I'm honored that this location conveys protection and good fortune to the living members of our family.