This one challenge was placed on a pedestal by those who have endured this process before me. I was told it would be one of the hardest steps in my ever evolving journey. While there is something inherently sad about looking at all this empty space in my closet, it was not, to me, all that hard. This step was a bullet point on my to-do list and I just did it the same I would washing my dishes and doing my laundry.
As I made trip after trip to the closet and then to the bed to remove Jon's clothing from hangers and place them into neatly organized piles, I handled each individual item with care. Most of his clothes were outdated garments I had never even seen him wear. He gave me so much grief over my own wardrobe, complaining that I never got rid of anything. I had to laugh as I realized that he was the one who never got rid of anything! When I did come across something of particular importance, I had to make a decision - which pile do you belong? Does it get donated to a charity to help young men find work? Does it go to a thrift store with the likes of Jon's t-shirts and shorts? Or do I keep it for myself as something to hold onto? I found myself being reminded over and over to be careful of what I hold onto. Too much and I'm not moving forward, but too little and I'm trying to move too fast.
In the end, I decided to keep a handful of t-shirts to sleep in, one to actually wear (it says, "you don't scare me, I have three daughters" which is relevant to me too.) I also kept a couple of Jon's button up dress shirts because, it seems, I rock them with maxi dresses. I also kept the shirt he was wearing the night we had our first date. Now I have three giant boxes full of the clothes Jon once wore. They are going to good causes, what Jon would have wanted, and that gives me strength. But now there is this gaping hole in the room where his things once were. Empty drawers I cannot fill, at least not right now. And it's strangely significant in that it represents this awkward void in my heart.
The boxes destined for donation are not what bothers me. It's the items that can't be donated - underwear, socks and undershirts - that bother me. They are all piled into a mound in a laundry basket. Their destiny is the garbage. It just doesn't seem right to throw anything away of his because in doing so, I'm throwing away a part of him. In the pile of undergarments to be thrown away are a mass of underwear with little to no meaning. But then there's the ones that do have meaning. A couple years back the girls and I concocted an April Fool's Day joke for Jon. We went to a craft store and bought as many iron-on appliques as possible, all of them as girly as possible. So now there are about a half dozen pairs of underwear and a couple of under shirts which have bedazzled emblems with tiarras and sayings like, "little princess." And Jon, being the Jon that he is, didn't throw those away. He didn't even avoid wearing them. He wore them with pride. Because we did that. His family did that. And now I'm supposed to just throw them in the garbage? I know they are just things and what could I possibly do with saved underwear? But how do I let them end up in a landfill?