I remember throwing it all into the fire. It felt right, turning all of this stuff into black smoke. He wasn’t there to need it anymore, and I didn’t like the idea of some stranger walking around in his big winter coat, carrying a past around they had no memory of. I’d emptied the pockets and found a folded picture of us on my ninth birthday. He still knew who I was back then. A smiling daddy’s girl on the beach, salt in my hair and sand on my skin.
I wondered in that moment as I folded the picture into my own coat pocket, if, before he died, he thought I was still that nine year old girl and not a woman twenty years on. I wondered at the fact that his illness hadn’t been sad for him; it had only been sad for me. I’d been forced to live in a reality that often left him behind. And now that he was gone, a reality far worse.
I’d closed my fingers around the photo inside my pocket and reached into the pile of his belongings to keep feeding the flames. The photo is how I chose to remember him then and how I remember him now.
The flames can have the rest.