OpinionA different journey

A different journey

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Bern, Switzerland–It has been many years since I have spent a winter here in Switzerland. A decision to come here was obvious.

My  mother, who is 93 years old, could no longer look after herself.  She lived in an assisted living arrangement, and had her own apartment within the institution which offered a noonday meal in a common dining room.  It had amenities like an indoor swimming pool, a fitness room, and occasional cultural events.

I flew to help her move to a nursing home where all her needs would be met. I packed my only winter coat left, which was a bright yellow anorak lined with goosedown feathers.  This jacket kept me warm during the dreary foggy days that followed.

Now I understand why people envy our warm temperatures in the tropics, and why they choose to come in the winter to our islands.  Inspite of my coat and wool scarves and hat and gloves, the dark days made one seek the shelter of a shop to ward the penetrating cold off.

The city was full of Christmas lights; the Christmas markets were buzzing, but this journey was a different one.  Negotiations for the nursing home, decisions on emptying her apartment had priority.

We needed to be focused.  The date for the move was chosen. Luckily, the nursing section of this senior homes had an opening.  On Dec. 15, my mother was wheeled to the next building.

Our friend, Rolf, could help us with the emptying of the apartment on Dec. 16 and 17.

Emptying the apartment in so quick a time meant making drastic decisions to trash good furniture. Her cherished belongings were heaped on the floor, towels, beddings, carpets, paintings in their frames, mirrors, the whole kitchen equipment. There was no time for a balikbayan box.

I kept very few things, a couple of Danish cups my mother had for the last 50 years. Two friends could come, and took a good helping of my mom’s Villeroy & Boch porcelain dishes, crystal glasses, mouth blown glass bowls and vases, stainless steel pots, a Persian carpet.   Cashmere sweaters that were too small were put in a plastic bag for textile collection. I am only too glad these were not trashed. These sweaters will end up as ukay-ukay in some country.

Looking later at the empty flat, there was a sigh of relief, but also many thoughts of the impermanence of material things. How we accumulate stuff.

Some people I notified to come to select things told me they already had too many things — which was also true.In our country, someone will always use what is no longer needed. At least, that is why the balikbayan boxes became a way to share what was too much in one household,  even used shoes.

My friend, Cecilia, has been divesting herself of things she has kept through the years.  She has gifted people during her birthday with some jewellery and some malongs.  Books went to Ian, a beautiful embroidered tablecloth to Marikit, etc.

As we approach a fresh start of a new year, I know that I want to surround myself with what is necessary and comfortable, therefore, to downsize, and to let go of things that no longer have a meaning for my life.

These are sometimes hard decisions to make, as the things we have kept up to now each  has its own story.

I hope to have learned something from this different kind of journey I am about to conclude here.

 

Author’s email: terryneemwindler@gmail.com

 

 

 

A different journey

Bern, Switzerland–It has been many years since I have spent a winter here in Switzerland. A decision to come here was obvious.

My  mother, who is 93 years old, could no longer look after herself.  She lived in an assisted living arrangement, and had her own apartment within the institution which offered a noonday meal in a common dining room.  It had amenities like an indoor swimming pool, a fitness room, and occasional cultural events.

I flew to help her move to a nursing home where all her needs would be met. I packed my only winter coat left, which was a bright yellow anorak lined with goosedown feathers.  This jacket kept me warm during the dreary foggy days that followed.

Now I understand why people envy our warm temperatures in the tropics, and why they choose to come in the winter to our islands.  Inspite of my coat and wool scarves and hat and gloves, the dark days made one seek the shelter of a shop to ward the penetrating cold off.

The city was full of Christmas lights; the Christmas markets were buzzing, but this journey was a different one.  Negotiations for the nursing home, decisions on emptying her apartment had priority.

We needed to be focused.  The date for the move was chosen. Luckily, the nursing section of this senior homes had an opening.  On Dec. 15, my mother was wheeled to the next building.

Our friend, Rolf, could help us with the emptying of the apartment on Dec. 16 and 17.

Emptying the apartment in so quick a time meant making drastic decisions to trash good furniture. Her cherished belongings were heaped on the floor, towels, beddings, carpets, paintings in their frames, mirrors, the whole kitchen equipment. There was no time for a balikbayan box.

I kept very few things, a couple of Danish cups my mother had for the last 50 years. Two friends could come, and took a good helping of my mom’s Villeroy & Boch porcelain dishes, crystal glasses, mouth blown glass bowls and vases, stainless steel pots, a Persian carpet.   Cashmere sweaters that were too small were put in a plastic bag for textile collection. I am only too glad these were not trashed. These sweaters will end up as ukay-ukay in some country.

Looking later at the empty flat, there was a sigh of relief, but also many thoughts of the impermanence of material things. How we accumulate stuff.

Some people I notified to come to select things told me they already had too many things — which was also true.In our country, someone will always use what is no longer needed. At least, that is why the balikbayan boxes became a way to share what was too much in one household,  even used shoes.

My friend, Cecilia, has been divesting herself of things she has kept through the years.  She has gifted people during her birthday with some jewellery and some malongs.  Books went to Ian, a beautiful embroidered tablecloth to Marikit, etc.

As we approach a fresh start of a new year, I know that I want to surround myself with what is necessary and comfortable, therefore, to downsize, and to let go of things that no longer have a meaning for my life.

These are sometimes hard decisions to make, as the things we have kept up to now each  has its own story.

I hope to have learned something from this different kind of journey I am about to conclude here.

______________________________________

Author’s email: terryneemwindler@gmail.com

 

 

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