Reviews | “Death Cleansing”: A Calculus with Clutter, Grief and Memories

The surprises you’ll find in your 20-year-old’s bedroom: ticket stubs from an Orioles game 12 years ago; two mysterious chestnuts; the invisible and now crumpled transcript from his last semester of college; a machete under the bed. More clothes in a heap: black corduroys over a blue-striped polo shirt; bluejeans tangled in heavy gray socks.

What clothes had he finally chosen to face the train that cost him his life? I would never know. But I decided not to wash anything, instead folding every item very meticulously, starting with the sheets he had just slept in, the smell of terribly fresh youthful sleep.

Anne Sobel
Princeton, New Jersey

For the editor:

When my mother died, her kitchen contained four white plates, four white coffee mugs, and four drinking glasses with her and my father’s initials intertwined. This glassware was a special purchase of hers, as she rarely indulged in anything just for herself. Collectibles from the house that had been gifted to her over the years had long been gifted or donated.

My house has several different dish designs, enough crockery for full service for a party of 64 – not that my house has that many. I rotate porcelain designs and matching glassware to match the seasons of the year. As I do, I see my reflection in Mom’s mirror hanging above the dining room sideboard and notice how much I look like her now. That face in the mirror has the sheepish look of someone who has indulged in way too much.

Mary Edwards

For the editor:

One day, we will sort, together, we said to each other. Boxes of love and life — pictures, letters, music. A day never comes. My husband’s ALS is progressing. He dies, in my arms. Simon says, freezes. I couldn’t move anything from him.

Then a call. “My friend fell and is paralyzed. It’s embarrassing, but since your husband recently passed away…” But. I move and collect – the shower chair, the handrails, and so on. I bring them to this family. We meet and share, and above all, we eat soup by the fire, we play cards, we smile.

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