Mom and I thunked our two plastic containers filled with rolled coins and loose bills on the teller’s counter. The $156.75 deposit may not have seemed like a significant amount to the teller, but to me it was everything. I’d been waiting for the right time, the right place, the right cause to do something special with the money that was left in my daughter’s piggy bank.
The pig was a gift from Bekkah’s Grandma Carra Lee several years ago. I don’t remember the occasion; there may not have been one. But the cornflower blue pig with orange flowers were Bekkah’s favorite colors. Every quarter she earned sweeping floors for her buddy Brad, every penny she found, every dollar given to her for birthdays and Christmas, she put into that bank. I didn’t know her plans for the money. But I knew that once she decided, the money would be used for something spectacular.
But she never got that chance before she died. Instead, I was left to take charge of the dispensing of my daughter’s life savings. I toiled for nine years what I should do with it, even moved that heavy basketball-sized Petunia with me three times. That blue pig just smiled back at me, knowing that one day I would figure out what to do with her belly full of moolah. Letting go of that money meant I was letting go of Bekkah’s unknown intentions; and I didn’t know what to do with it.
In February of this year, following two years of the seemingly endless stream of deaths of family and friends, I decided to turn my mourning into something positive that would honor Bekkah — a scholarship at Bekkah’s high school for graduating seniors pursuing degrees in special education. After making the seed deposit into the scholarship fund with our own money, we deposited Bekkah’s coins and bills, which I carefully extracted through a golf-ball-sized hole I punched into the bottom of the ceramic piggy bank.
I believe Bekkah would have wholeheartedly supported the cause, spreading a little more of her kindness and love in this world.
However, doing something with her money required me to let go of each coin and bill her delicate fingers had pushed through the slot in the top of the bank.
Letting go of part of someone you love is perhaps the most difficult part of grieving. A common fear of grieving is that we’ll forget our loved ones—their laugh, their smell, their smile. C.S. Lewis wrote in “A Grief Observed” on the death of his wife Helen:
“Slowly, quietly, like snow-flakes—like the small flakes that come when it is going to snow all night—little flakes of my, my impressions, my selections, are settling down on the image of her. The real shape will be quite hidden in the end. Ten minutes—ten seconds—of the real H. would correct all this. And yet, even if those ten seconds were allowed me, one second later the little flakes would begin to fall again. The rough, sharp, cleansing tang of her otherness is gone.”
Each year that passes, Bekkah’s essence becomes more impressionistic, like snowflakes covering a landscape. But some things remain. I can still feel the coolness of her cheek against the back of my index finger and the smell of fruity shampoo in her hair. I remember her sweet voice coming from her room, minding her stuffed animals propped against the bed enraptured by their teacher’s lesson in her make-believe classroom.
I have given away many of her things, like her blankets, pillows, and the painted table and chair set—a gift from Carra Lee—which I gave to Bekkah’s friend Rachel who now teaches children with special needs. I’ve also given games, toys, books and cookbooks to children I knew would appreciate their value. I can’t bear to yet part with her blue jacket—an idiosyncratic cloak of comfort she wore even in 80-degree weather. Her hairbrush and glasses, her cheerleading uniform and shoes, her copious artwork, the tangible reminders of the things she held, wore and touched, are entombed as time capsules in plastic containers. I wonder if one day I will relinquish these. Their destiny is too much to ponder most days, so I close the storage shed and decide to let go of what I can in the right time.
The process of letting go is learned, something with which I’ve grown more comfortable since Bekkah died. Letting go of relationships that fail me, anger that consumes me, material items that no longer bring me joy all seem easier somehow. Once you’ve lost the thing, the person, you love the most, the rest is insignificant. Loss, and therefore grieving, is proportionate to the sacrifice.
For me, the process of letting go means allowing the should-have-beens to fade away, giving room to embrace each new day in gratefulness, to honor the love Bekkah represented. Feeling her presence in these moments allows me to focus a little more on today and the tomorrows I am meant to experience. I can worry about letting go of the items in my time capsule another day.