In Grief

suitcaseI did not have a very good rest last Friday night.

You see my mind is like a giant trunk.  All week long, my deepest, most pensive moments and daily deeds are precisely organized by date and time and are held in check in my head by the regimen of my structured profession. By the end of the week, in anticipation of a more leisurely pace and some relaxation, my subconscious starts to randomly unpack while I sleep.  When I shift to weekend-mode, all of the tiny doors to my mind fling open and the inmates take charge of the asylum. A collection of disjointed thoughts now spills out into a confusing mass, erasing its former order.

That evening, for an undetermined amount of time, I was in a state of panic in my dream. Surrounded by my college roommate and other contemporaries in an unknown location near the ocean, I sensed an impending doom. Darting around in a large structure from room to room, I was directed to gather significant items and other essentials.

“You can only take what you can fit into the small suitcase,” a loud voice reminded me.

“Hurry!  We have to leave soon,” another deep voice warned as I continued in a frenzied state.

Standing in front of an unfamiliar closet I pondered about what clothing to grab. Was I going to a cold climate or would it be hot? Should I have something fancy?   (A truly bizarre thought at a time of crisis I must admit)

Next I focused on jewelry. I didn’t want to leave behind significant pieces that I might never see again, but I lacked the time to pick and choose, so I quickly stuffed all of my jewelry into a large Ziploc bag, vowing to sort out the tangled mass later.

Then racing down a long set of stairs to another room, I started ripping out family pictures from my multiple albums. Images flew everywhere as I tossed them on the floor.

“Hurry!” another voice boomed.

And then I woke up.

When I opened my eyes I stared at the ceiling trying to put some order to my disturbing dream. Feeling exhausted from my fitful sleep, I rolled over and tried to catch a few more moments of rest.  But my mind was still spinning like the Tilt-a-Whirl on the boardwalk at the Jersey shore, so I got up for some coffee. Surely caffeine could sort out this mental disaster.

Where was I? What caused my thoughts to be so urgent and disturbing?

Possibility #1

For the past two weeks, I intently watched the coverage of the Malaysian Airline #370 crisis. Scientific discussions about possible debris fields and speculation about the cause of its disappearance focused my thoughts on the human element of the tragedy. Could a suitcase show up I wondered one night? What evidence would there be in it to shed light on a passenger’s life?  What personal possessions were taken on that ill-fated trip?

Possibility #2

The unusually cold spring has left me standing in front of my closet each morning at 6am wondering what to wear. Tired of my winter clothes, the chilly temperatures have unfortunately forced me to continue wearing  sweaters and black pants while I look longingly at my lighter wardrobe.

Possibility # 3

At the end of January I travelled to Florida to see my father after the death of my mother. My sisters requested that I go through some of our mother’s costume jewelry. They know that Mom and I had similar styles, so there were probably some trinkets that I would want to take home. As I sat by myself on the floor of her closet, I reverently examined the drawers of her jewelry chest in silence. An eerie sensation came over me. It was as if I was viewing a series of 35 mm home movie clips. Each time that I held on to a bracelet or necklace, it triggered a memory, and along with that came a vision of Mom. Since I had a very small suitcase I only took a few select items and kept them in their original plastic Ziploc bags,where Mom had indexed them.

That week was the first time that I wore one of the pieces to school. As I kept track of the hours during the day, I glanced down multiple times at her delicate watch on my bare wrist. Although I have already accepted that I am aging and no longer have the hands of a young woman, I was startled to see the striking similarity to my mother’s hand. Even though I was the one now wearing the watch, I could also see her hand superimposed on mine.  It caught me off guard and the image stayed with me for several days reminding me of her absence.

Moving forward…

Dissolving the raw sugar into my coffee with a vigorous motion, I wondered how my random thoughts rearranged themselves into such a new and bizarre story. Yes, my days are always filled with numerous ideas and images and yet these were the ones that rose to the top. I didn’t understand the hierarchy.

And so with the clarity of a new day, I took ownership of my nonsense and tried to learn from it. What would I really pack if I had to flee in a few hours I questioned myself out loud? What would the contents of my small suitcase tell about me? Sorting through sixty one years of accumulated stuff is a challenge. What do I really need? And what do I just collect and buy to admire?

Fortunately, I have many memories and they don’t take up any space at all, so I can take as many of those as I can possible recall.  But there are also some special, tangible things that I would want to hold in my hands forever and feel their texture and smell their aroma.

What would you pack? Have you ever had such a crazy thought? I would love to hear from you if you get a chance.

But don’t lose sleep over it!




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