Fathom Mag
Article

The Drama of Examining a Life

Now is the time to be intentional about what is left behind.

Published on:
April 22, 2019
Read time:
2 min.
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Her high school diploma.

The badge she wore when she worked at the Pentagon in the 70s.

Copies of the letters she wrote to attorneys asking for help in obtaining child support from my dad.

All of these unearthed out of the paper relics of a past life. 

I thought I would perform the task of going through the boxes of mom’s life once she passed away. But I was wrong. She’s still very much alive. She is as fit as any seventy-year-old would want to be with one exception: she has dementia. As I look back with that focus-sharp vision we all wish we could have facing forward, I can see how the changes were subtle and unalarming. It wasn’t until 2018 that the shift in her memory became apparent. She was forgetting to feed her dog. She wasn’t taking her medication as often as prescribed. She forgot to pay her bills.

She’s been so much braver than she would ever give herself credit for.

Boxes of processed checks dating as far back as 1983. 

Every bank statement from her adult life. 

A litany of utility and cable bills. 

Old photographs and report cards tucked into unlikely places.

Having taken very little with her, only her most needed and essential items, I am left with what remains. Going through the boxes has been like a history lesson on Mom’s life. 


She gave up driving. 

She gave me the authority to handle her finances and her estate.

Her dog belongs to me now, too. If anyone is looking for a needy, shaky, territorial Chihuahua, hit me up.

She decided soon after the vascular dementia diagnosis to move into an absolutely beautiful assisted living facility. The staff there is kind and compassionate and she is very happy. 

I am busy with the boxes. The process is slower than I ever thought it would be. But I’m ok with the pace. It has given me time to think through what her life has meant. I can see reminders of how hard she worked to make a life for herself and for me. I can see evidence of her love for God and her constant need for him. She’s been so much braver than she would ever give herself credit for.

It has given me time to process, at least in part, the loss of who she was before her memories started slipping away. She doesn’t remember where she went to high school, that she worked at the Pentagon, or that she was victorious over her ex-husband. For as long as humanly possible, I will remember for her.  


Now is the time to be intentional about what is left behind.

What will it be like when my own children go through my things. What will they find? Will they be overwhelmed with evidence of my love for them and their dad? Will they find proof in paper or pictures of my fight with and victory over depression and anxiety? Will they find my love for God in the remnants of my life? 

I hope so. 

Now is the time to be intentional about what is left behind. Now is the time to live with purpose and love, time to take the pictures and write the words. The time for filling my own “boxes” is now.

Tracie Collier
Tracie Collier is a writer who believes that there is no such thing as too many books, that laughter is some of the very best medicine, and that God is truly good. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pretty-much-grown sons, looking for excuses not to cook, and seeking God in the ordinary days. You can find her writing at faithfilledkids.com and on her blog, traciecollier.com. You can also find her on Twitter @traciecollier and on Instagram @tracie.l.collier

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