Bits and Pieces

By: Cara Barth

“When someone you love dies, and you’re not expecting it, you don’t lose her all at once; you lose her in pieces over a long time—the way the mail stops coming, and her scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in her closet and drawers. Gradually, you accumulate the parts of her that are gone. Just when the day comes—when there’s a particular missing part that overwhelms you with the feeling that she’s gone, forever—there comes another day, and another specifically missing part.” John Irving: “A Prayer for Owen Meany”

When I read the above quote, it literally took my breath away. Finally, I found words for what had happened to me a few years ago BUT had no way of expressing it.

I remember feeling overwhelmed with emotions after my Grandmother died and being surprised by the sadness that consumed me, as it had been about 10 yrs. since her passing. I was extremely close to my Grandmother. She served as my “mother” for many years, and I loved her deeply. I was the one at her bedside when she died and the days, months, and years since had been a process of healing this loss so I thought, “All was well”. Then it happened. I dropped a box!

I was cleaning out some items in a family member’s basement and as I grabbed a box from the top shelf of a cabinet, I lost my footing and everything, plus me, toppled to the floor.

As I took a deep breath and assessed the situation, I smelled her! I took another deep breath and another because I wanted to remember. With every breath, I smelled her and the memories flooded me quicker than I could take it all in. I searched the area for what was producing that wonderful aroma and then I spotted them, stacks of her handkerchiefs scattered all over the floor. I grabbed about a dozen, placed them to my face and breathed her in…over and over. The more the scent hit my face, the more the memories came. I heard her voice, I saw her face, I felt her touch and with each inhale, I knew to my core I’d have to say goodbye again. But,”NOT Now” I thought, “Not Yet”! I clutched those tiny pieces of fabric as a child clings to the leg of a parent on the first day of Kindergarten. Then the flood came. I started to cry, small tears at first, but they grew into a full on storm of emotion. I have no idea how long I sat there, but I know it was a long time, because I was determined to hold on to my Grandmother as long as possible! “You don’t lose her all at once; you lose her in pieces over a long time . . .” How true this is, and I was so thankful to have the verbiage that expressed my feelings and experiences.

Time has passed since I dropped that box on the basement floor when the “Bits and Pieces” of memories consumed me. I now know that at various times in my life, a smell, a song, an event or a holiday, such as “Mother’s Day,” will draw-up emotions buried deep inside that I thought were settled, and that’s “OK”. Just reading the quote by John Irving has served me well in knowing that others have been there. I’m not alone. Others have been on that proverbial basement floor, breathing in a loved one and gripping every ounce of memory for as long as possible!

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 


  1. Reply
    Tina says

    The last smell of my mom is long gone……but she is still so with me. I pray I find a box and drop it one day.

  2. Reply
    Cara Barth says

    Yes I’m sure she is very much with you in thoughts, places and memories.
    Some day, “A box” will drop and you will reminded again of your special places and times with your Mom. Peace my friend…

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