Thursday, November 1, 2012

It's Just Stuff

The recent images flooding in from Hurricane Sandy have brought back some rough memories.  Please understand, I can only relate in part to what the victims of this disaster are feeling but I think I have had some of the very same feelings myself.

My stuff.  It's gone.  It is a very strange feeling.  To go to the place where you kept your things to find them no longer there.  Or it's all there but it's, well, gone. Destroyed. Never to belong to you again. Never the same.

It's funny how our things can define us.  I don't mean in terms of status, although we all know that's true.  But slowly, over time, we assign memories, emotions to things.  Our things.  "See this?  We got this that time we went to that place and Uncle So and So laughed so hard milk came out of his nose? Remember?"

My freshman year of college I lost everything I had in the world to a dorm fire.  The fire started in the room next door in the middle of the night.  The fire alarm system did not work and we were all saved by a fast-acting security guard.

Once we were able to return a couple hours later it was the eeriest feeling I have ever had.  To look at my bed, now black like charcoal, with the sheets pulled back like I had just gotten out.  My pillow looking like my head had just been on it. The alarm clock inches from where my head was melted flat to the table.  It was all there and yet none of it, except for a few things, was salvageable.

I cannot describe the feeling. It is the loneliest most desperate feeling.  In that moment you feel like nothing will ever be the same. You will never own anything again.  All of your memories are gone -all of your things are destroyed. All I could say was, "This was everything."

And yet even as I stood there with this horrible pit in my stomach I knew my mother was en route from just a couple hours away to come take me back, well, home. I still had a home to go to.  A roof over my head to have - parents that were at the ready to prepare the insurance claim and take me shopping to begin replacing my things.  And just for the record it is not the "shopping spree" that one dreams of - there was nothing fun about it. "What do you think of this sweater?" "Sure I'll take one in each color. What's next on the list?"

The only thing I can offer someone that has or ever will "lose everything" is this.  It really is just stuff.  That experience made me less sentimental about things but more reflective about the passage of time.  That brush with death has, over the years, slowly crept in to my consciousness and has made me realize that it really can all change in an instant and all this stuff we surround ourselves with just weighs us down.

So it is only in this small way that I can relate to the victims of this tragedy.  No. You no longer have the thing you got at that place.  But nothing can change the fact that Uncle So and So laughed so hard milk came out of his nose.  So, just, remember.  It will take some time but you will get there.


  1. I'm just now reading over some of the blogs I liked and read this post. And I was JUST remembering hearing about how this had happened to you...I only remember hearing someone say it was a curling iron that had been left on...true or not--how weird is it that I remember this? From a million years ago. Anyway--good thoughts--and appreciation that you recognize how blessed you are to have had a place to go after loss.

  2. How weird is it that I remember hearing about this? And weirder still, why did I just remember this a couple of days ago before I read this blog entry?'s awesome that you appreciate the fact that you did have a place to go home to, when so many folks do not. Good stuff--keep writing--you say what many of can't or don't.