John was a snappy dresser. Yes, he had his silly satirical, goofy tshirts, but generally he was, as they say, a sharply dressed man. Dress shirts with jeans, paired with a sport coat, black jacket and nice shoes. Even in khaki shorts and tshirt, (or a shirt I made him) I always thought he looked great. Even better in his kilt.
So a few months after his suicide, I realized I would weep every time I saw one of his jackets… And I saw them every time I reached for my jackets. I saw his shoes every time I reached for mine.
I knew the big armoire in our bedroom was full of more memories ready to flow out if I opened it. They would drown me.
What was I going to do with all of this stuff? And it is just stuff.
Donation was my only option. I passed on some hiking boots to friends of John’s and they are honoured to walk in his shoes. I’m honoured as well.
The bulk of his clothing, the suits, I couldn’t sell on commissions, haggle with second hand stores ( that are almost all for women) … not for John’s clothes. Couldn’t do it. I also knew I could not abandon his clothes in a bin.
These clothes were just too good for dropping off to the usual charities, regardless of the emotions involved. Don’t mean to sound snobbish, but we’re talking really nice dress clothes, suits, dress shoes, the works.
Thankfully, John had already made donations to a drive to collect men’s clothing of a business quality to a charity drive similar to the women’s “dress for success”. It’s called simply Canadian Suit Drive, and Moores is one of the participants John dropped off the clothes he outgrew. Let’s be clear, he grew out of the clothes because of his working out, not getting chubby. He’d want me to mention that.
This was extremely difficult. It’s just stuff, but it was his stuff. HIS clothes. Going through all of the clothing, memories I had of him wearing each item were flooding in like a tsunami, ready to pull me into more despair, more darkness.
Folding the items, I wept, I screamed, I crumpled. I spent minutes with some items, tracing the edge of the fabric with my finger, hugging other items, sniffing them, desperate to catch his sweet fragrance.
But it’s just stuff.
Pockets were checked before the boxes were filled, and I wondered who would be getting these clothes. Would it be a new Canadian, trying to make a good impression at his first job interview, or even his refugee hearing? Would it be a smart kid from a poor neighbourhood, trying to break the cycle of poverty? A recovered addict, just pleading with himself and his self doubt for a second chance? Would it be a husband in his forties who thinks he’s let someone down because he lost his job. Would he be like John, strong, stoic, hiding the fact that he’s standing on a cliff of despair, ready to plunge at any second? Will this man have someone who just wants him to be happy, who doesn’t care if he gets the job or not, but only wants him to be proud of himself like they are proud of him.
I knew that when these clothes found themselves on the back of a man that is at a crossroads in his life, that he needs to know he is loved, that he can do this, he can make it, regardless of the difficulty along the journey. My favourite line in any movie (and I don’t watch a lot of anything) is from “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and is “all will be alright in the end, if it is not alright, it is not the end”.
The only way I knew how to pass this message on, is by simply doing that; leaving that message in the pockets of every single item.
I cried writing the notes and wrote through blurry, watery eyes, but every pocket got a note.
you ARE loved.
You CAN do this.
The world needs you.
I hope those words reached people.
On the boxes, I wrote “these clothes belonged to a great man, who was loved, and is missed terribly”.
It’s just stuff.
Donating this stuff was exhausting and heartbreaking, but it needed to be done.
You can breathe in a home with memories, but not in one with constant reminders.
But stuff wasn’t John. John was John. He always gave his best in everything he did, and helped everyone when he could, so I could only hope his stuff could do that as well… perhaps with a little help from a broken heart, a pen and some paper.