Removing Their Belongings

I can never permanently escape “memory triggers” that bring my lost children vividly into my thoughts and emotions. In the first year after the death of Anne and Adam, those painful flashes struck me many times each day. They sometimes tripped me into almost paralyzing sadness.
It could be a glimpse into their room, bumping into their little friends, a familiar tv character, a child’s voice, a toy or a pillow, a favourite song, a car like ours, the playground or McDonalds. There were literally thousands of those spontaneous triggers.
I had to get rid of my son and daughter’s clothing. But how? I didn’t want to give it to a local charity. I feared I might one day see a similar clothing article on a child and think it had belonged to my son or daughter.
Just last month this dilemma and the solution came clearly back to mind as I sat on a five hour flight home from a business meeting. It reminded me of the trip my husband and I took to Jamaica about a year after the first tragic accident.  I had two extra suitcases packed with Anne & Adam’s summer clothing to give away to Jamaican children in need.
I connected with one of the servers at my hotel and asked if she knew children who could use the clothing. She did and we met after her shift. She agreed to distribute the items to needy families and I handed over the suitcases.
A year or so later I learned of a group heading to Jamaica to build houses for the poor. We donated $2000 for construction of a home. It was money saved from baby bonus cheques for Anne and Adam’s future. Our parish priest returned from the group’s Jamaica trip with a picture of a new house. There was a plank over the door that read, “In Memory of Anne & Adam”.

Back at home their bedrooms stayed as they were as I slowly gave things away to their friends and family members who wanted a little part of them.  My idea was not to maintain a shrine but to gradually let go as I parted with some things and held on to other pieces of them. The rooms were finally emptied four years later when we sold the house at the time of our separation.
I was just recently decluttering and had to throw out the little aviation jacket of Adam’s that I had kept all these years.  It was made of pleather with a synthetic collar & aviation crests.  The jacket was disintegrating.  I found change in one of the pockets.  Adam was quite the young clown and performer. His uncle Cléo had given him this change after Adam sang his little song at the campfire on one of our camping trips.
Paul who was 19 years old was living with his father at the time of his death.  I received a few of his belongings including his Oakley sunglasses which I kept with me in my truck.  When my truck was stolen, the sunglasses too were taken.
What I now have left of my children are pictures and memories.

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  1. Helene, reading your stories always makes me cry. Recently, here in Woodbri=
    > dge, there was a similar accident you experienced. This time a drunk driver=
    > drove through a stop sign and killed three young children and their grandfa=
    > ther. I thought of you immediately. The children who were the recipients o=
    > f your donations will always be grateful. =20
    > Triggers can sometimes be cruel. I too experience these almost daily. The w=
    > orst one for me i the sound of an ambulance siren. Many times a day one hea=
    > rs that noise living in a big city….too many!
    > You are a very strong lady. Again, thank you for sharing.
    > Monica

  2. It would be so very hard to give anything of the kids away, or even change their rooms around. I can’t even imagine the pain involved in this. You are the sweetest person and did not deserve any of this. Why do the good and the young die, when there are so many bad people out there that thrive…. We hope to someday find out why this keeps happening. My prayers and loving thoughts are sent to you honey. hugs and kisses Ushy

  3. Dear Hélène,
    I admire your strength and conviction in writing your memories of your beautiful children and the pain that you relive each time. The devastation and grief you share with each post breaks my heart. I honestly couldn’t image going through such a loss and it makes me more involved and attentive to my own children, and more grateful. You are such an amazing woman and an inspiration to me. You have overcome so much and you live life to the fullest, you are so much fun to be with. You have encouraged to be more outgoing and embrace each and every moment!
    With love, Anne

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