On a February morning in 2019 my mother slipped away. Her body had slowly deteriorated in the preceding year – an acceleration of a process that had been happening over her last decade.
I was deeply sad but not shocked. It wasn’t until six months later, outside her house, with my car full of bits and pieces from her home, that the shock came.
My father died when I was 11 so when I left home at 21 it was my Mother’s house that I left. Since then I moved house 24 times, never owning, always renting.
My Mother left her family home at 21 too, but she took a different route, she lived in the same house for the next 60+ years.
So many big life events happened in my Mother’s house, both in my life and others. She made it a hub, an extension of herself. She planted herself in the middle of it and drew the family to her.
Gatherings were hosted there, birthdays celebrated, dinner parties, christenings, sing-songs, visitors, get-togethers, Christmas mornings, and summer barbeques.
Over the years I saw her worry about her house, remodel it, repaint it, re-carpet it, re-wire it, change the windows, change the doors, replace the bathroom – twice, tend to the garden, replace furniture, add to and subtract from it.
All this energy invested in her home.
Without my noticing it became a monolith in my mind – solid and everlasting.
A monolith that was shattered into bits and pieces that now filled my car.
Her house went the way of her body – once she was gone there was no cohesive force holding it together anymore.
I couldn’t witness this and not know it would happen with my life too. That the things I think are important, are not, and that someday they too will drift apart, like the atoms of my body, and disappear.
This was not a new thought for me. I have never been interested in the accumulation of things. It always seemed pointless. I was always keenly aware that I couldn’t take it, “with me.”
Somewhere I thought maybe I was being naive or unrealistic. Seeing my Mother’s house disintegrate was a shocking confirmation that I was not.
I think the minimalists are onto something.
In the reduction of their external possessions, they are in tune with this truth.
I have no monolithic house to disintegrate and when it comes to possessions, one or two of everything I need is enough for me. Instead what I have been doing is a sort of inner minimalism – a letting go of the importance of my personality, the culture of ‘Me” that accumulates on the inside.
Many hours of meditation has helped. So has facing what happens every night in deep dreamless sleep when everything I hold dear, my consciousness, my memories, my personality, my sense of myself, all disappears.
It is a cliche to say, “If you think your cares and worries are important go sit in a graveyard for an hour. Everyone there thought their life was important too.”
As I drove away from my Mother’s house for the last time I saw the reality of this at a depth I hadn’t experienced before.
Life is long but our time is short.
Let it all go and the truth of who you are will emerge.