Letters to My Friend -

Of Grief and Earthly Treasures

by Mary E. Stephens
Feb.2, 2020

My mother has dementia. It is a difficult thing to deal with as it progresses. Due to my dad being in the hospital two nights in January it was necessary for me to help her with dressing and taking care of her personal needs twice a day. I realized that her clothing situation was in disarray. Things were rather jumbled and she was not seeing things that she would wear and she was being confused by many things that she either couldn't wear or that were difficult for her to put on herself.

A friend of mine had offered to help with things here, knowing some of the issues we've been dealing with. We made a date and she helped me go through my mom's clothing and rearrange things so that they are hopefully easier for Mom to use. We got rid of a lot of things. At the end of the day my friend offered to take away the bag of stuff to be donated and I agreed. The bag of trash was put at our house for later disposal. It all seemed like a good thing at the time. My dad was very happy to have this done and my mom mostly was happy with what we did, only asking to keep a few special things.

I had no idea how much emotion and grief this process would stir up in me. Getting rid of my own things has had its occasional challenges, but it was different with Mom's things. The next morning the grief hit me like an avalanche. This was an "end of life" event. Those clothes were gotten rid of because my mom will never need them or be able to comfortably use them again. Things were discarded that I or my sister-in-law had made for her. Some she had worn out. I had tried to be thankful for that, but the aftershocks and sort of panic made me realize that I was grieving the loss of yet another part of my mother. It was really hard. Still is by times.

In texting with one friend she mentioned how she has saved clothes from when her children were babies. She understood my emotional connection with those clothes of Mom's and why it caused me so much sadness to get rid of them. It made me think about how we connect clothing so closely with people and events and then that makes it hard to let go of the things. Another friend said she thought maybe it gave us a sense of comfort - perhaps in the connection to a time when everything was still OK, so to speak. Connections. Memories are the glue that keep the past with us. Without them it all slips away into oblivion. That seems so final somehow, and a little scary.

When I was communicating with yet another friend I realized that I was making treasures of earthly things, and that drew me up short. I knew that was directly contrary to what Jesus clearly told us to do, or rather not do.

Matthew 6:19-21 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

In a strange way there is comfort and freedom there. But, we have to take it. We do that by obeying it.

My mother's clothing is not her. Even her body is not her. Some of these days when the Lord comes back, she will get a new resurrected body that will last her for eternity. That is mind-blowing in the face of how her earthly body is failing her at present.

I don't really need those clothes, those things, to remember my mom and her love for me or her service to the Lord. But, even if I do forget, everything that is of value, everything that is of use in God's plan, has been recorded in heaven and laid up for her against that day when the works of the saints will be tried. (2 Corinthians 5:10) Nothing that is truly precious will be lost - neither her nor her good works.

She is safe. Even when she no longer remembers who I am - she herself is safe in Jesus' hands. And no man, no loss of her memory, no loss of my memories of her, can take her out of His hand. (John 10:28-29) All the important things are remembered by Him and if they are needed by anyone, He can bring them to light.

But, earthly clothing is not the substance that heavenly treasures are made of. It is OK to be sad at the results of the curse of sin on this earth. But it is also OK to let the earthly things go. It is safe to let them go. Because God won't forget anything that is important. And in the final analysis, that is all that really matters, isn't it?


background and graphics by Mary Stephens
vintage graphic: unknown source