It’s September. The kids are heading back to school. The nights are finally cooler. The days are getting noticeably shorter. And I’m knee deep into fall cleaning. That’s right—I really get in the mood to clean and organize in the fall, not the spring. When spring arrives, I’m too busy dreaming of being outside, tuning up my bike, and anticipating long walks with my dogs to want to devote time to cleaning or organizing my house. But when fall rolls around, I turn my focus back indoors, nesting for winter.
This year my actions feel distinctly different. I gently touch each shirt on one rack of my closet, pulling a few I haven’t worn in years to donate. I move the heavy wool suit jackets that I rarely wear into the guest bedroom closet. I combine sweaters into one section on the other side of the closet. I decide to donate every single belt I own since I haven’t worn one in years. I fold up Greg’s Peyton Manning jersey that’s been hanging there since his death. Although I’m unsure who will take it, I know I don’t need it anymore.
I keep moving and sorting and building a donation pile, and before I know it, I’ve completely cleared out two sections of my closet. I’ve not thought about it consciously, but I now see what’s happening.
I’m making room.
The closet space is simply a physical manifestation of what’s been happening during the past three months since meeting Number Four. We’ve been making time to be together, making an effort to learn about each other and to understand each other at a deeper level, and making it a priority for our families and friends to meet.
It’s more than just making room for him in my home. I’m making room for him in my heart. I’m learning how to carry the memory of Greg while still opening up a place for someone new. I’m coming to understand that it’s possible to feel strong while still feeling vulnerable, to feel happy while still remembering sadness, to feel both willing and ready while still feeling shy and hesitant. I’m taking a risk and I know I might be hurt, but it feels right to make room for someone in my life.
The cleaning and clearing frenzy continues for days. First with my closet, then with the bathroom, the kitchen, and finally the garage. When I’m exhausted from the effort, I fill my entire SUV and make a make a trip to the closest donation center to unload items. It feels good to purge, but even better to be making room.
In the midst of my fall cleaning project, Number Four tells me he’s found a dragonfly in the bathroom sink. He has gently lifted him by his wing and left him on the counter for me. When I go to see, I realize the dragonfly is still alive, so I very carefully carry him to my back deck to see if he’s able to fly. It’s not my first encounter with dragonflies since Greg’s death. In fact, nearly every family member or close friend has a story to tell about a dragonfly. Right after Greg died I said that I imagined he had been reincarnated as thousands of dragonflies so we could feel his presence after he had left us in the physical world. It’s not that I really believed that, but rather felt the need to attach meaning to the dragonfly experiences.
“You know what that is, don’t you?” I say to Number Four. This is his first dragonfly encounter. He never met Greg nor did he experience the journey leading up to Greg’s death, so I don’t know if he’s really focused on any sort of symbolism of the dragonfly, but it hits me immediately. “That’s Greg’s way of saying he’s ok with you being here, that he’s happy for me.” Number Four assures me, yet again, that he is certain Greg would want me to be happy. Within an hour, confident that the message was received, the dragonfly has moved on, but I smile for the rest of the day.