When a family member dies, going through their stuff is not an easy thing. You feel like you're filching from them at best, snooping and intruding on their deepest privacy at worst.
When my beloved Grandma died two years ago, we had to go through all of her belongings, of course. She had six grandchildren, of whom I am the eldest. She and I always had a very special relationship, perhaps because when I was five years old, my grandfather passed away and she stayed with us every Friday night for decades. She always slept in my bed, with me on a camp bed in my own bedroom. We also just somehow understood each other as people, not just as family members. I saw her as a woman and a human being, not just as my mother's mother.
She was Hungarian and a Holocaust survivor. I have no idea how Holocaust survivors who lost family members even continue to have a normal life afterwards, but she did. My admiration for her increased a thousand-fold after she died. She never lost her Hungarian accent and whenever we talk about her (every day I'd say), we 'do' her accent. It's always with affection.
At the age of 85, when the doctor told her she had pancreatic cancer that had spread to much of the rest of her body, she accepted it quickly. The doctor left the room and she asked my brother who was with her to pass her her lipstick and mirror. That might just tell you what a strong woman she was. You don't survive the Holocaust and live to be a grand old age for nothing.
As well as make-up and beauty products, Grandma loved jewellery of all kinds, both expensive and cheap and cheerful, and there were enough pearls to go round for all her granddaughters and granddaughters-in-law. There's something so deeply bittersweet about wearing your grandmother's jewellery after she's passed on. We had a lot of 'fun' (gosh, I don't know which word I should choose there) going through her jewellery but when I went through her clothes in her wardrobe, it really made me cry. I pretty much always have (classical) music on in the background - it is the aural wallpaper of my life. But I went through her stuff in complete silence, almost out of reverence. Her clothes still smelled of her. They smelled of her hugs. They smelled of our closeness. Gosh it made me weep. I took a few scarves and a few items of clothing - she was very stylish with good taste - and there is rarely a day that goes by without my wearing something of hers, be it jewellery or clothing. I also took a few ornaments that she had on a little shelf in the guest bathroom in her apartment. They are what you might describe as 'chachkes' - inherently meaningless objects. But to me, they are replete with meaning, reminding me of a wonderful woman I feel blessed to have known, and be related to.
Grandma Bobbie, I dedicate this memoir to you with love.