A Can Full of Memories

This trash can had been in our schoolroom for several years. When my late husband was sick and home under hospice care, we needed a trash can in the room where he was, so this can was relocated. It’s a nice size and the lid kept the dogs out and the odors in. When Thadd died and everything was being cleaned out and put back together for my own use, the can was taken out to the front porch to air out.

I left the can alone for a while. I don’t know how long – a few weeks perhaps. I finally took the time to go clean it out. Opening the lid, I was overcome by the smell of “actively dying” that emanated from the can, and all the memories attached to that. Ironically, it was a sickeningly sweet odor.

I couldn’t close the lid fast enough!

I tucked the can behind the porch chairs, probably had a cry, and left it.

That was over four years ago.

I’ve often thought about the trash can. I should either try to clean it again, or just get rid of it. For some reason, replacing that can just wasn’t something I needed to do. So, it sat – neglected, uncared for; feared, even. For four years, I couldn’t bear the thought of encountering that smell again, so I’ve been afraid to open the lid.

This year, I’ve undertaken the transformation of the schoolroom into an office. Guess what my office needs? Yep. A trash can. Knowing that I have a perfectly good one out on the front porch, it made the list to try again to claim it for active service.

One day recently, I ventured forth and collected rags, cleaning spray, and the trash can, and headed to the back patio. I braced myself for what might come wafting out – whether real or imagined. Removing the lid, I took a deep whiff of… dirt. Dirt. That’s all I smelled.

Whew! I smiled with a sense of relief.

There was evidence of a mud-dauber nest, cob webs, leaves, a few dead bugs, and dirt residue. No lingering death-smell. I was so relieved, and then set about cleaning the can.

All the while I was cleaning, I was reminded of its past uses, and my anxiety of encountering a more pressing grief trigger. But, I was also reminded that time changes some aspects of grief, just like the odor in the can. And at the right time, I am able to tackle different aspects of my life.

It might seem silly to some, and certainly it’s something that is difficult to truly understand from the outside, but I think it’s important to try to understand widowhood in its many facets. Widowhood takes a heavy toll, and only so much can be processed and addressed at certain times. Friends and family who come alongside and do the life thing with a widow significantly lighten the burden and help with healing.

Personally, I had no “I have to be the one to clean the trash can” feelings, it just wasn’t too high on the list of things to do. So it waited until the right moment. Is it something someone else could’ve taken care of? Yep. Totally wouldn’t have cared if someone else tackled that. But, it’s also not something I was going to go ask someone to do. So, it waited, and I eventually got to it.

So, what’s my #widowwisdomwednesday take-away about my trash can? Well, that it’s a simple, everyday thing that loss invaded. I’ve been without this trash can for over four years, because it was shrouded in loss and just one more thing I needed to do, but it wasn’t pressing, so it waited. Loss seeps into and touches everything, even the most mundane thing. When you consider your widowed friend or family member, and you see a dirty and neglected trash can (literal or figurative), offer to clean it. You might think it’s simple or silly, and it might be dirty, but it also might be just one less thing she has to consider, and one step along a healing journey.

#liveyourfaithboldly and #loveonpurpose

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