I once knew a young girl whose mother had died, and her father, although living under the same roof with her, was making himself emotionally unavailable. So this 15 year old only child found herself basically all alone. It was heartbreaking to watch.
And then her father moved on. He got himself a girlfriend. He got engaged. They decided to sell the house and move to another state. My friend could move with them. Of course she could. But by now she was 17.
She did not want to leave the house where her mother died. It felt like betrayal to her. It felt like abandonment. So she was running around, desperately trying to figure out a way that she could buy the house from her father. She would get a job, she said. She’d get roommates. She’d take in boarders.
So I told her my deodorant story.
One of the last things my mother bought me before we discovered that she was dying was a stick of deodorant. Nothing sentimental. Just, “Honey, do you need anything from the Walmart?”
After she died, and once the deodorant was used up, I found it impossible to throw it away. I’d hold it over the trash can in a death-like grip, and then I’d put it back on the shelf. I just couldn’t let it go. It was as if throwing it out would be like throwing my mother out. Disposing of that deodorant would mean a lifetime of deodorant that was not purchased by my mother. That seemed even more final than her death, somehow.
I held on to that stupid deodorant for a couple of years. Then one day, I realized that my mother was not in that deodorant. She wouldn’t be further from me if I threw it out. So I tossed it, burst into tears, and the next day… nothing had drastically changed. Except that I had a little more shelf space.
Sometimes you just have to let go.
I told my friend that her mother wasn’t in that house, she was in her heart. I also told her that her mom wouldn’t want her to get stuck with that mortgage at such a young age. It would be an albatross around her neck. I told her that her mother would want her to live her own life and go to college and have adventures and explore new places.
Often when you cling to things, it’s like holding onto a rock in the middle of a raging river. It might seem like the safest, smartest thing to do at the time, but all it does is cause you to get beaten up by the current. Sometimes it’s better to just let go and float downstream to where the water is calmer and the view is new and delightful.
It’s hard to see what’s around the bend in the river before you go down it. It’s a lot more obvious when you look back at it from over your shoulder. Letting go takes faith. Have faith.