The Unexpected

The Last Load of Laundry

I originally wrote this two years ago and it feels like yesterday. I am still missing Matthew.


I wasn’t expecting this today.

It’s New Year’s day, 2015. My little one is 7 and has been getting over a tummy bug so I kept her home today and spent the day housecleaning. The kids tease me about my cleaning obsession – but I don’t feel at rest when the house is upside down, My husband and son helped as well and cleaned the garage.

Something I hadn’t considered when asking them to clean the garage was a suitcase filled with my brother’s clothes as well as a bag of clothes he wore to the hospital last year just before he died. I had placed these two items, the suitcase and plastic bag in the corner behind some boxes a few days after he died. Someday, I thought, I would pull those things out and wash them. I knew my father wanted some of the things at some point – I just didn’t know that today I would confront the suitcase and plastic bag.

His passing last February was unexpected, quick, and of course very sad and traumatic. The events that occurred after his passing, the memorial service, closing of his affairs, are all a bit of a blur. Five days after he died, life called and I picked up the pieces and carried on with meetings, visitors, and raising my little one.

Every once in a while, during these months, the suitcase and plastic bags would catch my eye. The laundry needed to be done.

Bills began pouring in and we began the long process of notifying all creditors he had passed. It took a number of phone calls over the course of several months to convince the hospitals and physicians’ offices and labs that he had indeed died – I faxed and refaxed and even asked a friend to help fax the certificate multiple times as proof of his death. The phone calls, despite our concerted efforts to let everyone know in a timely fashion of his passing, seemed to be unending. Finally, the final death certificate was faxed, the last phone call was made and all notices of collection stopped.

He had nothing left from his estate – how could anyone collect something from nothing?

So this morning when I went to the now clean garage, I saw the plastic bag and suitcase sitting conspicuously out in the open.  I knew it was time to do the laundry. I sat on the floor and opened the bag and suitcase. I remembered seeing him in the outfit I pulled from the bag, the shoes were worn according to the way he walked and I pictured him as I best remember him: on the track field.

My brother, Matthew, was a runner when he was younger. He still holds a local 5k record – a fact that I quickly announce to any running enthusiast who will listen.

I pulled shirts, shoes, trousers, shoes and a belt from the suitcase and tried to smell them to see if the scent of the cologne he loved lingered in them. No. They smelled musty from being in the garage. My eyes then moved to the airline sticker still on his bag from his last flight to Florida. I cried and remembered that he came back to Florida just weeks before he died.

As I loaded the washer with his clothes, I said, “Matt, this is the last time I’m doing your laundry!” As kids I would often wash his clothes and was always irritated when mom asked me to do his laundry. There won’t be another load, there won’t be another stain to treat.

Matthew’s home now. That’s what I texted to our family members the night he died and that’s what I type today to remind myself that all is well with him.

But I still wouldn’t mind doing another load of laundry for him.

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