In June of 2005 my husband John and our two children, Jack and Annie, moved into our brand-new home in Hartland, Wisconsin. It was the home in which we had planned to raise and expand our family creating decades of happy memories. I had visions of pulling lovingly cared for things out of the basement to be shared with grandchildren one day. Those visions changed very quickly when Jack was diagnosed with neuroblastoma just three months after moving in. We hadn’t even unpacked all the boxes before we started packing for the hospital.
This week marked another move for our family, as Annie, Tommy and I said good-bye to that Hartland home. In preparation for this move, I spent the last several weeks in “Marie Kondo” mode, sorting through 14 years of items, treasures, and belongings . . . each of them tied to so many memories. For those of you unaware of the whole Marie Kondo movement, it is an organizational method that asks you to consider how the items serve you. Do they bring you joy? If not, thank them and let them go.
In the best of circumstances, letting go of items of sentimental value is difficult. It causes us to question, to debate, and sometimes to mourn. But this whole philosophy has prompted me to consider the things that really matter. It has made me discern between the value of those physical ‘things’ vs. the memories the ‘things’ represent. Do the actual things bring me joy or is it the fond memories that surround them?
For me, the packing/downsizing journey has been bittersweet. As I went through all the “things” we have collected over the years, there were many items that brought me great joy; but, there were just as many items that reminded me of the difficult times, conversations, and moments which I would rather forget.
The one thing this process has provided me is the space to consider the significance of things vs. memories. This simple thought shift has given me an important perspective not only in packing up our home, but also the journey that my family has been on over the past 14 years. The things that we have collected will always remain just that…things. The most important items cannot be packed, for they are the memories, love, and moments that are always packed in my heart.
For families who battle childhood cancer, life is a constant series of packing up. The constant trips to and from the hospital often require a bag to be packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice. What you put in that bag is vitally important. And while there are always favorite stuffed animals, blankets, and pillows, and comforts of home, the most crucial items we constantly pack are hope, love, faith, and encouragement. These are the things that are indelibly etched in the memories of that moment in time.
While moving can be hard, it can also be healing . . . it can provide a new and different perspective. It can be the start of a journey you never thought you would take, but despite your trepidation, will bring with it an abundance of new moments poised for the memories that will be made. Each of us packs and let’s go of things every day. It is important that we not tell people to “move on” for we have no idea what is packed in the heart that should never be left behind. For Annie, Tommy and I, while leaving the house was so bittersweet. We are not moving on; rather, we are moving forward our hearts packed with the memories and things most important to us.