12 years, 6 months less one week…

I finished shredding Keith! On Sunday, in a completely unplanned and spontaneous moment, I attacked the last box of papers from Keith and began ripping them. I have been shredding and burning his paperwork in spurts since he died. Believe it or not, all the shredding I did before I moved from Calgary to Ontario provided me with all the packing material I needed. I had bags and bags of it and used it to protect my valuables. There is even a video of my son and his friend (at age 4) getting into the bags of shredded paper and throwing them all over the basement and having a glorious time in it. Mom didn’t think it was so much fun stuffing all the shreds back into the garbage bags!!

As I was working away, my daughter showed up and asked if she could help. She didn’t know what I was doing; she just wanted to shred.

I am always awed at how life creates magical moments. As I was looking at the documents, I was able to share stories with my daughter. I let her read the letter I wrote to a leasing company in which I was expressing my dislike for them. Then I found my letter to a credit card company telling them what I thought about them and their inability to complete tasks on time. I looked at all the letters that said: “Please find attached my husband’s death certificate.” She giggled with me. As I handed her the papers, she found his signature on a receipt and asked if she could keep it!

Within this last pile of papers, I found the death certificate, both our birth certificates, our marriage licence, the record of birth for my daughter, the claims for medication Keith was taking, the ambulance bill the day Keith was taken to the hospital where he died, and the receipt for his funeral. So many memories and emotions are tied up in these pieces of paper. Memory overload!

As much as I wanted to hurry up and finish this, I was able to recognize that the shredding was coming to an end – that I was reaching the last piece of paper, so I slowed down. I carefully put each piece into the shredder and watched it get eaten, hoping that I hadn’t shredded something I wished I kept. After the years of madly shoving papers into the shredder in the hopes of this project ending, I find it odd now that it is over. I have a mix of relief, satisfaction, and sadness. There is something final in having no more papers to shred. Don’t get me wrong, I have kept some to help share the story of his life and death with my kids, and I plan to put them together in some fashion (hope that doesn’t take me another 12 years!) But to finally have this done is what I call another period at the end of the sentence. What I mean by that is the more tasks I complete related to Keith, the more I feel I am finalizing, finishing, accepting, understanding (not sure what the right word is here) his death. Don’t get me wrong, I am not forgetting or getting over his death, but I am continually amazed at how his death affects me in many sad, beautiful, and wonderful ways.

Whoever thinks the time is not a factor in grief has never grieved. There is a reason why it took 12 years to complete this task – I don’t know exactly what it is, but I know for me, that was how much time was needed. Maybe it is as simple as my daughter needed to be a part of it – she needed to bear witness to what Mom was doing, help shred, hear the stories and find for herself little nuggets of her Dad – something she couldn’t have done before today.


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