It’s too easy a metaphor, all the boxes that are living in my house now. I spent weeks going through my mom’s apartment, deciding what I needed to keep with me and what could go. Giving away as much as I could. I probably took too much – there are so many things that I don’t need, can’t use, but that I just couldn’t bear to think of being loaded onto a junk truck.

I took pictures, of course. Writings, art, scrapbooks – but I also took the big sparkly stuffed flamingo. It was one of the many things that no one wanted, no one had room for – there just aren’t homes for everything, but it couldn’t just go to the dump. There were probably too many things like that. But then I also have to let go of the seed of panic that tells me that there are, most definitely, things I missed. Things that I should have kept that I didn’t look at closely enough. I had a near miss with a simple black knit hat folded up in a plastic tub full of general winter accessories – gloves, hats, scarves, nothing particularly interesting. I was skimming through, trying to efficiently determine that there was nothing I needed so that I could put the tub to the side, and a tag on the hat just happened to catch my eye. I looked more closely and saw an old, tattered, hand-written label with a last name and regiment information – it had been my grandfather’s in the Navy. And I almost passed it by and let it go. I know there are things that I missed, and I’ve got to be okay with that.

And now we’ve got two rooms filled with boxes, plastic tubs, wooden crates – two rooms in a house that only has seven. It’s like someone has moved in, which, again, too easy a metaphor. Also too easy – I have no idea what I’m going to do with most of it, where to put it, how to integrate it. Most of her clothes I let go – we weren’t often the same size and had wildly different styles. One of the few overlaps, though, was our love of flowy comfy peasant dresses. I found a whole collection of them in a free-size style that suits me as well as it suited her, and I’ll likely be wearing the crap out of them when summer comes back around. We’ll see then where that takes my head.

On the last day we went through and packed up all of the useful goods. Over the counter medicines, paper towels, plastic bags, frozen food, shampoo … I spent a week eating her frozen tempura shrimp. I’m still finishing up her conditioner. I’ve still got three cartons of her cat litter. There were certain odd things that she had way more than a reasonable amount of – salt, for example. Four or five containers of regular Morton salt – why? Did she keep forgetting she had it? Saline nasal spray – four or five unopened bottles. Inexpensive things, not the kind of thing you’d stock up on because a sale would save you substantial money.

An online friend of hers mentioned to me a couple times that her ghost had been to visit. I’m an agnostic about these things so I’m not one to outright disbelieve, but certain things make me skeptical. If her ghost were hanging around, do you think she might’ve visited me too? But then again maybe not. Maybe she’d think it would be a nuisance to me and she’d stay away. Or maybe I’m just not in tune enough.

Lately I’ve been feeling more of a draw towards the paganism that’s served as my default religion for years – I swing like a pendulum on whether I care about actually practicing any belief system, but I’ve been feeling the tug the last couple of months. I don’t know what I think I’ll find there. Not her ghost. But I think it’s natural in these times to want to believe in something.

I watched a video that was going around Facebook about an artist with dissociative identity disorder and I came pretty close to losing it. The woman was so different from her but also so alike on some levels. Mom’s divisions weren’t so well defined, didn’t have names or distinct biographies – or at least if they did she never told me, which is always possible. It’s my guess that the times that they fully broke through and took over were rare – the times when she would lose time didn’t seem terribly frequent – but that they were constantly talking to her. I know she heard voices constantly. It didn’t seem like the things they told her were ever good.

There are things that people say to comfort themselves and each other when these things happen – “She loved you.” That one is true, yes. I know that she did. She couldn’t always do it well, but she always tried, and she always loved me. The one that’s a sticking point for me is “She knew that you loved her.” Because on that one I can never be sure. I told her that I did, told her plenty of times, told her that even when things between us were bad that I still always loved her. But did she believe me? I know that the voices told her that no one really loved her or wanted to be around her – that anyone who seemed to was pretending, and I know at least some of the time she believed it. Honestly it might have been all the time, I’ll never know.

When we were together and I would tell her I loved her, she’d seem to believe it, but how long would that stick once I wasn’t there in front of her anymore? How long would it take before the voices were just too strong?

I have so many questions about her last day, and none of them will ever be answered. Probably the biggest one is “Did you know, when you pulled the trigger, that I loved you? Did you remember that I’d told you I’d forgive you if you had to go?”

I’d like to think so, but in truth I don’t believe it.