February 21st, 2014
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Oh my goodness I can so identify with the story that I am sharing with you today.
It’s a story titled, 54 Drawers, and it’s about a daughter who thoughtfully and lovingly is going through the drawers and drawers of file cabinets containing huge amounts of paper her recently deceased father stored in the office of his house.
In my case it was and still is the papers that my late husband left in his office.  Over the years, I have made a lot of progress and thrown out lots and lots of boxes containing everything from old bills, old checkbooks, handwritten notes, pictures, and receipts to zillions of stories printed from websites along with multiple copies of stories my husband beautifully wrote while working as a prize-winning science and space reporter for The Washington Post.

Thomas O’Toole hard at work at his Washington Post desk

If you have never found yourself in the position of going through a deceased person’s belongings please let me tell you that it is not the kind of activity that happens quickly.  No way.  It is dicey territory.  Don’t let anyone tell you that it is the same as when you say you are going to clean out your closet, desk or any other room in your house.

It takes time, especially if the things belong to someone you cared about.  It is an unpredictable, emotional and even intimate journey, just as Olivia Judson so eloquently writes in her story, 54 Drawers,  recently published in The New York Times.  For those of you readers who have found yourself in the situation of going through someone else’s belongings after their death, I hope you agree with me that initially you think you are ready for the task and that it shouldn’t be too difficult.For me, it quickly became evident upon going through the first box that it was going to be harder than I thought.  His things took me back to him and I was back inside my husband’s head reading his written thoughts, completed or not, and some pieces of paper were out of the blue surprising, revealing some things about himself that we had not ever discussed.  He may have even forgotten that he wrote these thoughts.  I’m not implying that I uncovered any deep dark secrets but just that I came upon things that he wrote in the emotion of a moment and may have wanted to keep private.
Throwing away some of some husband’s stuff felt like I was disrespecting him even when it was just an outdated piece of paper or a report that was not of any importance.  I knew that I wasn’t doing anything of the sort but it certainly felt that way.  Then there were other times when going through his stuff felt like a game.  I would read whatever it was I had found and stare at it for awhile wondering why he had kept it in the first place.” Is there something of importance here that I’m missing?” I would ask myself.And then I realized that the answer to that question was yes.  I was missing him.

Please read Olivia Judson’s story, 54 Drawers, by clicking on the link below:


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