My father's landlord and friend stops by. I am glad to see him. Together we walk from room to room. He exchanges brief clarifications with me and the movers. The violent sound of splintering wood stops us in our tracks. We exchange questioning looks and turn toward the source of the noise. The minute my eyes see what is happening, I have a flash-back into the depths of an abandoned coal mine. Our tour guide had just switched off the dim lighting. Disoriented, I just stood there in the pitch darkness, unable to move. Damp surroundings sent chills through my body. Muscles tightened. I held my breath -- until I remembered to exhale. I wanted to scream to release the eerie tension built up inside. The same urge resurfaces. I have to restrain myself not to run across the room and yank a short muscle man away from the furniture that his foot ravages. All my frustration built up for weeks culminates in this single moment. I fight back tears. The middle-aged mover obviously doesn’t understand the value of this delicate side board. I wonder whether his boss has the slightest notion of what is occurring. His boss had been full of awe and appreciation for each piece left that I offered him and his company to remove during his first walk-through. I had intentionally chosen this company because they resell collected items in their shop. Everything in me wants to yell at the perpetrator, forbid him from continuing his senseless destruction. His feet take turns shattering the side board, one of the first teak pieces my parents bought together. Splinters fly everywhere.
Keep your mouth shut, my inner voice advises. What happens to the furniture is no longer your business. After all, it was you who paid them to haul everything away. In whatever manner they do it, doesn’t concern you anymore.
“Where brute force thoughtlessly rules!” I look at the person next to me whose lips recite these famous words. My Dad’s landlord shakes his head. His eyes reflect my own disbelief and horror. We silently agree to move as fast as possible through the patio door into the wide-open world outside. We shut the door deliberately behind us.
Hours, even days later, this episode replays in my memory -- over and over again. I cannot get rid of it. This memory follows me around like a homeless dog in the hope of leftover food or simply attention. Why does this snippet of the entire furniture removal bother me so much? Like the four-legged shadow that approaches people with caution but perseverance, the answer slowly dawns on me during a walk:
Hadn’t I shattered my parents’ hope of passing on their sizable collection of several consolidated households by giving away the majority of their possessions to non-relatives and strangers?
Hadn’t I minimized my inheritance to a sliver of its volume and worth due to overwhelm and unwillingness to invest unlimited time and resources to comb through everything with more diligence than I already had in the course of six long weeks?
Hadn’t I treated my heritage unintentionally in a much more violent manner than the mover had treated one piece of furniture which didn’t even mean anything to him?
My cheeks and the front of my shirt are completely drenched. My nose drips. I sniff. How painful truth can be! From below, the full sound of church bells announces the sixth hour.
I become very still, look around –and find myself on the cemetery high above the valley. The grave in front of me has become my favorite. It is not my family’s tombstone. I do not know the people that have been put to rest here. The reason I visit this spot, is the magnificent tree that is planted right behind the tombstone. Like tentacles, its roots frame the entire grave site in a gracious hug and grow back up around the trunk, supporting it. Tree, roots, and tombstone have formed one entity. This remarkable sight reminds me of the infinity sign. Past meets Present. My ancestors and I are one unit and will always be. I love the mental image of being held up by them. Would they forgive me for having cleared my parents’ house of all their tangible heirlooms, if I forgave myself?
I just stand there, in silence, allowing the answer to reveal itself.
Then I walk slowly back into the valley, past the empty house that no longer holds ties to my family.
About the author
Anja Kerstin Kuentzel,
Advanced Grief Recovery Method specialist, nature lover, photographer, and bilingual wordsmith combines her passions to offer a different perspective on life that might inspire, raise awareness or even heal.