Lightening the Load

Then we who are alive, who are left, shall be taken up together with them in the clouds to meet Christ, into the air: and so shall we be always with the Lord.

—1 Thessalonians 4:17

Our old Episcopal priest used to encourage us to contemplate during Lent what we have done to love our neighbors as ourselves; to take stock, to finish projects, to make apologies—in short, to prepare to meet the Risen Lord.

I like the notion of Lent as a time of “rising,” of lightening the load of earthly ballast. I cheerfully avoid unnecessary purchases and food, the things that add bulk to my presence here on earth. I also spend a lot of time cleaning out closets, drawers, cupboards, and the garage.

This Lent includes extra load-lightening because I’m sorting through not only my own stuff, but things that belonged to my father as well. When Dad died my mother could not bear to watch the funeral-home staff take his body from the house. And now, almost a year later, she finds it impossible to hand over his things to strangers. So whenever I visit, she gives me a batch of things on hangers or in boxes and tells me to “deal with these.”

“Dealing with” Dad’s things amounts to more than passing on the boxes and garment bags to the Salvation Army. On the drive home from my mother’s house, Dad’s scent—his aftershave and something more personal and human—wafts from the packages and permeates the car. It’s said that smell is most...

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About the Author

Jean Hughes Raber teaches journalism at Michigan State University.