Sorting ~ Guest Post by Jill Buteyn

We gathered to see Mickey. She was in town for Story’s birthday, and it felt as though a missing puzzle piece had been returned. Seeing her quiets something in us. Sets the world right again. It’s still tipped slightly off axis, as I imagine it always will be. But she’s there. She’s there, and peace slides around us again.

We arrived at Kara’s house—will we ever stop thinking of it that way?—and clutched coffee mugs in our hands. Talked. Even laughed. And then Jason announced that we were welcome to go up. That one piece of information we’d been avoiding as we drank in each other’s hearts. We were there for more than coffee. Even more than Mickey.

We were there to sort through Kara’s things.

As I type the words, I take a shaky breath. I’m not sure anyone drove there without a breaking heart. For me, it was the first. The first time I’d been to the house since Kara flew away. I’d been tempted to ask Jason if I could come over before this just to stand inside their hallway. To see if I could accept the silence that would meet me from the top of the stairs. No voice calling out for me to come up.

It was also a first for many of us to be in Jason and Kara’s bedroom. And probably a last. There were deep breaths as we made our way up those stairs. Hand holding. We walked in and I stood staring at the bed. I made myself look for longer than necessary. I let it speak to my heart. She’s not here.

She’s not here.

Because even though I know better, there’s this small part of me that imagines she’s still in that bed. And I wait for her text, but it doesn’t come. I had to swallow the truth that I already know. She’s not here. She’s with Jesus. She’s no longer in pain.

The clothes were pulled out. Tears were shed. Kara never wore anything kept in her dresser. If it wasn’t in her closet where she could see it, she wouldn’t wear it. So we left the dresser for last, knowing the things we remember her wearing would be the treasured items.

And yet, we just stood in a circle. Talking about each item, remembering when or where she wore it. The shirt, the dress, the pajamas. Finally, we started picking up an item, deciding who we thought should have it, then forcing it on that person.

None of us wanted to want anything too much. None of us put too much stock in earthly things. We had our Kara. We still have our Kara memories. The clothing is but a piece of her.

Eventually we began to relax into the hard. We shared stories, passed clothing, taking moments to inhale each piece. And then a purse was thrust into my hands. The purse. It has as much history as the grace dress. The purse Kara told her sister she wanted, and her sister, of course, simply gave it to her.

I fought taking the purse. Tried to send it back to Jonna, but she refused.

I thought, how can I use this purse? And then, how can I not use this purse?

I suggested we pass the purse. We would each take a turn with it. And so it was decided. The sisterhood of the traveling purse.

We came upon a blanket. That’s Von’s, someone declared. We should give it back to him. And so we did. He clutched it close, and Blythe told us the story about how when someone wasn’t feeling well, Von would give them a blanket. This had been his favorite blanket that he’d given to Kara.

It’s heartbreaking to receive back something you never wanted returned. Blythe didn’t want that blanket back in the same way Jonna didn’t want her purse. None of us want our things back, because it means Kara’s not here to use them. We’d trade it all for another day, even another minute with her.

As I left and drove away, I kept smelling my hands. They smelled like Kara. I’m sure passing traffic wondered what was wrong with me. I was like Mary Katherine Gallagher from that old Saturday Night Live skit, smelling my hands over and over again, inhaling Kara.

I won’t lie. It was a hard day. Hard to walk in that house and know she wasn’t there. Hard to see that room. Hard to accept a piece of clothing she will never wear again. Many of us spent the rest of the day undone.

But at the end of the day, I can’t help but think of what Kara gifted us.

Not clothes, scarves, hats, or necklaces, but each other. Friends. Community.

Love. Love is what she left us. And as Mickey reminded us, there’s enough to go around. When you think you’re at full capacity for loving others, you’re not. There’s always room for more.