The bustle in a house
The morning after death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon earth.

The sweeping up the heart,
And putting love away
We shall not want to use again
Until eternity.

(Emily Dickinson)

Sweeping up the heart.  Is that what I was doing, broom in hand, as I rounded up the stray bits of kitty litter? I’d already packed the cans of Fancy Feast and the anti-Fur Ball goo, and helped coax sweet unsuspecting Liddy, my mom’s adored companion, into her carrying box to be carried away to a new home.  I swept as if I was sweeping for mom, cleaning her home as I would if she were going to walk in and inspect.  I folded her clothes and put them back in her drawers, not in the careless way I stuff my own shirts in my crowded dresser, but in the tidy and careful way she did. Putting love away.

In the funeral’s aftermath, the house was empty, my sisters, relatives and friends, eventually, all gone. The silence was too loud, and so I cleaned. I excavated the fridge, filled the recycling bin well past the brim, and swept. Swept the kitty litter, dirt from the comings-and-goings of caring friends, crumbs from the cookies and casseroles that neighbors delivered as the family gathered round. And then I couldn’t find a dustpan. I still don’t know where to put all this. The mishmash of memories, all the bits and pieces of grief.

But I do know this. I know I don’t fully agree with Miss Dickinson  – I do want to use this love again, here and now, in today’s blessed eternity. I’m not ready to put it away, to stash it in a Tupperware container relegated to far reaches of our dreadful attic. I want it to be held close and full, so full it falls out when I least expect it, like a shiny coin or loose lipstick from an inadvertently opened purse—as in the circa 70s photo above.

I am learning this: what we think we have contained, closed up and tucked away has a way of spilling open. Ready to be swept up, again and again.

~ by Stephanie on 05/24/2011.

2 Responses to “After.Life…Sweeping”

  1. Sigh. Of course it does. Of course.

  2. Beautiful posting. Sweet picture. Thanks so much for revealing the contents of your heart through these last few months.

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