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Marie-Kondo-ing My Closet Brought Me Closer To My Departed Godmother

Two years after her passing, I feel closer to her than ever.

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It was a Tuesday afternoon when I felt the urge to clean out my closet. It was a perfect day outside with the sun shining through my windows and a breeze coming through the screen. My cat was perched at the end of my bed, basking in the warm Florida sun.

Days that have this ethereal feeling always make me want to clean the house, to feed into the cleanliness of the air and project it onto my space.

I rifled through my tiny and cramped closet, purging the clothing items I haven't worn in at least 2 years and tossing shoes riddled with holes into the trash. I was determined to get work done, to make my small closet feel a little bigger. I went into my task with the intention that a clean space would help me have a clearer, less cramped mind.

As I was nearing the end of my massive cleanout, I came across I purse I received two years ago still in its white cloth, protective bag. I pulled it out and had to take a thoughtful look at it for a couple of minutes. It felt like I was straight out of a movie when the protagonist finds an artifact of her past and can't fight the urge but to sit and ponder what it used to mean to her. The only thing my situation didn't have was a supercut overlay of every moment I lived since receiving the item. It was all so cliché, but I was immediately overwhelmed with emotion.

I received this purse when I was a sophomore in college. I had just turned 20 years old and recently found out I was granted an internship at CNN in New York City. I was ecstatic, scared, but above all else, proud. I could see my future pan out in front of me, and it was one I had always dreamed of. My godmother knew how emotional it all was, so to commemorate my success, she splurged for my birthday and bought me a Coach purse that acted more as a feminine suitcase than anything. It could fit my laptop, a notepad, a couple of pens, my phone and wallet.

It wasn't huge, and to be honest, it wasn't really my style, but I was thrilled. She knew I would want to look like the professional woman I craved to be as I scampered throughout my favorite city doing the thing that I loved most for two months.

It was the first birthday I got to share with my godmother. She had grown estranged from my mother when I was about 5 years old due to a nasty fight, and because of it, I also lost my connection with her. When I was 19, my parents, brother, and I attended a family gathering with about 40 people to celebrate my great-grandparents' 75th wedding anniversary, and my godmother was there to commemorate the marriage as well. My mom refused to speak to her, but my brother and I introduced ourselves, and after just a minute, she cried.

Because of how excited she was to see us, she put her differences aside and reached out to my mother who then accepted the apology and the two became best friends again almost immediately. From then on, I hadn't ever seen my mom happier, and I felt like the luckiest girl in the world because I basically had two moms.

With my actual mom having heart disease, my godmother became the only person I could talk to about how I felt through it all. She had an estranged relationship with her almost 30-year-old son who still resented her for her divorce with his father, so she was more than happy to fill another mother role for me, and a true one for herself.

She was my confidante, my ultimate supporter, and the person I would cry to most.

Regardless of how I felt about the design of the bag, it resembled a lot more than just leather, so I wore it proudly throughout the entire summer. It was the best summer I ever had and the experience solidified my dreams of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

When I headed back to school in August, I found out my godmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She fought hard for months and went to her chemo treatments like a champ. She was told she had beat it in November but had a double mastectomy nevertheless to make sure all traces of the cancer were removed.

Everything was looking up for a while through the holiday season, until March of 2017 when her cancer came back but in a different form. This time it was lung cancer, and there was no stopping it. I have never felt more frustrated to hear news in my life.

I kept wanting to blame doctors for not instructing her to do more chemo treatments, for them not trying harder to fight what could possibly come from the disease. She lost her battle on May 21, and to this day, I don't think I have ever cried so hard. I had already lost her once, and now I was losing her for good. She became a mother to me, and I never felt so loved by someone who had essentially just met the real me.

When I picked up the bag last week while cleaning out my mess of a closet, I cried. I cried for her, for our memories, and for the loss of future that I could have had with her. Quite frankly, I'm not sure it has gotten much easier since her passing.

Even after it goes completely out of style, when the black leather has faded and it begins to emit a strange smell, I'll never get rid of it. This 9' by 6' purse is filled with memories, my godmother's pride and my remembrance. It's a symbol of my past self, of the girl charged with dreams who revered her godmother as her complete idol.

This woman fought cancer with a smirk on her face and rode her Harley every day to and from work to show the universe nothing could stop her. She was determined to help herself, and through all her treatment, she continued to help others as a nurse. My Aunt Sue never took no for an answer, and she fought with everything in her to stay alive.

She was, and forevermore will be, my hero.

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To The Senior Graduating High School In A Month

"What feels like the end, is often the beginning."
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It wasn’t too long ago that I was in your shoes. Just a little over a year ago, I was the senior that had a month left. One month left in the hometown that I grew up in. One month left with the friends that I didn’t want to leave. One month left in the place that I had called “my school” for the past four years. You are probably thinking the same things I thought whenever it came down to only 30 days left. You’re probably scared, nervous, worried, or anxious. Maybe you’re like me and are dying to get out of high school, ready to start a new chapter. Or maybe you aren’t so ready yet. Maybe you’re wishing for a little more time.

As scary as it is, this month you have left will fly by. You’ll blink and you’ll be standing in your cap and gown, waiting for your name to be called to receive your diploma. You’ll look back on your last four years at your school and wonder why time went by so fast. It’ll be bittersweet. However, trust me when I say that you have so much to look forward to. You are about to begin taking the steps to build your future. You are going to grow and learn so much more than any high school class could teach you. You are going to meet amazing people and accomplish amazing things. So, as scared as you might be, I encourage you to take that first step out of your comfort zone and face this world head on. Chase your dreams and work towards your goals. You are smart. You are brave. You are capable of achieving amazing things. All your life, the lessons you have learned have prepared you for this point in your life. You are more than ready.

There are times when you will feel alone, scared, or confused. There are times when it won’t always be easy. But those are the times when you will shine the most because I know you will work through whatever problems you may face. Don’t think of the bad times as a terrible thing. Use them all as learning experiences. As author Joshua Marine once said, “Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”

You might think that this is the end. However, it’s not. This is only the beginning. Trust me when I say that the adventures and opportunities you are about to face are nothing compared to high school. Whether you are going to college, going to work, or something else, this is the beginning of your journey called life. It will be exciting, it will be terrifying, but it will all be worth it.

So, as you walk out of your high school for the very last time, I encourage you to take a deep breath. Relax. You’ll always have the memories to look back on from high school. But your time is now, it begins today. Embrace it.

Cover Image Credit: http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1152445/images/o-HIGH-SCHOOL-GRADUATION-facebook.jpg

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10 Pieces Of Advice From My Parents That Have Helped Me Survive This Thing Called Life

I don't like admitting that they're right, but they've helped me through more than they'll ever know.

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As I've entered my 20s and have made it halfway through college, I've learned that life can be hard and challenging at times. Like many kids, when I was growing up, I could care less about what my parent's advice or opinions were. Nine times out of ten, I would do the complete opposite of what they said. Once I got older and actually started listening to their advice and put it into perceptive, I learned that they're right more often than I'd like to admit.

1. Don't take things for granted

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I've learned to cherish what I have because I might not always have it. It's easy to take life itself and many things it involves for granted. They've taught me to take a step back from this crazy life sometimes and be grateful for all that I have.

2. Don't be afraid to put your heart on your sleeve

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My parents have taught me that if you feel something, don't be afraid to say it or embrace it. If you love someone, then tell them. Don't be afraid to put your heart out there just because you might get hurt.

3. Be vulnerable

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In life, in relationships, in your work. Take risks, get shot down, and then try again. Being vulnerable is scary yet so powerful.

4. You can never have too many shoes

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Otherwise known as it's okay to treat yourself. Life is hard, so take care of you. If that means going on a shopping spree every once in a while, then so be it.

5. You're going to be okay

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Whatever it is you're going through, you're going through it and you're going to come out on the other side. It may seem horrible now, but you'll learn from it and be okay in the end.

6. You have to have friends in life

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It's important to have people to lean on, especially on your bad days, and to celebrate with on your good ones. You can't just have you or a significant other to rely on.

7. Never be afraid to share your opinion

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Don't be afraid to put your thoughts and opinions out there because they might be wrong. They could have a huge impact on someone or something.

8. Don't stress over things you have no control over

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Everyone is on their own path, which means everything will work out the way it's supposed to, even if it doesn't make sense right now. Again, you're going to be okay.

9. Happy, healthy, wealthy, wise

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My dad always says if you tell yourself every day that you're happy with yourself or your life, you're healthy and strong, you're wealthy in love and surrounded by great people, and you're knowledgable or wise, then you can achieve anything in life.

10.  S*** or get off the pot

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My all-time favorite piece of advice. Making decisions can be hard and scary, especially if the outcome could be getting hurt in the end. So, you either make a decision and roll with it no matter the outcome or you walk away.

Thanks, mom and dad for always being a phone call away when I need it! Just know that your advice and words of wisdom don't go unnoticed. For others, your parents have been on this planet much longer than you have and most likely experienced the same situations that you're dealing with. They don't have all the answers, but they are there to help.

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