I watched a documentary last night called ’32 Pills: My Sister’s Suicide”. It was rough going: I got about 30 minutes in before walking away.
No one close to me has committed suicide, and I don’t dare venture into what that particular brand of hell must be like. But the central action of the film was relatable to me. The surviving sister decides to go in to the storage room where her deceased sister’s belongings have been sitting undisturbed for years. And she’s not only going in, she’s bringing everything out into a large artist’s gallery for close examination and reflection.
The deceased sister was a prolific artist, so we see watercolors, oil paintings, and photography. Then there are journals, an endless collection of half empty bottles of psychiatric drugs, stuffed animals and much, much more. The exercise was just as illuminating, baffling, wrenching, and cleansing as one might expect for the surviving sister.
A storage room full of my deceased dad’s things also sits untouched even though it’s a mere 2 minute walk from my apartment. I’m able to go in and touch his things, but others in my family are not. And as of now, there’s no established timeline as to when they will be.
I respect that, of course, but am grateful that I’m able to go in. I have one of his buddhas on my windowsill and I stare at it as I work. I’m also typing on his computer as I write this. As a family, we’ve discussed keeping the enormous volume of journals for future generations to read-his unborn grandchildren and great grandchildren will never have known him. We ourselves will never be able to read them.
Looking back, I’m glad my sister insisted on keeping almost each and every item left in his apartment. And I want us *all* to be able to go in and sift through the material accumulation of a full life, bring it out, put his books on our bookshelves and hang his art of our walls.
And I’d like it to be soon.
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