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Boxes of Life and Love


Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of James’s death. Just when I think I’m upright and moving in the right direction, something happens to remind me he’s not here. He’s never coming back. Recently I went to my storage units in search of things to put on my office wall. While I found what I was looking for, I also found things that made me happy, nostalgic and things that made me sad.

One storage unit was full of uniform cardboard boxes that hold the contents of my life spent with James. Would you believe I’ve saved every rose James ever gave me? I have boxes and boxes, big cardboard boxes of dried roses, carefully packed in newspaper. Dried when they were perfectly formed. Beautiful buds still bound together, petal upon petal, like lovers’ hands, intertwined finger by finger.


I would lay them on paper bags on top of the refrigerator to dry. It seemed as though there were always roses there. Afterward, I put them in old wooden boxes, silver trays and crystal bowls. Containers of roses filled the living room, the dining room, and my dressing room, even an old Lalique bowl in a alcove beside the tub.

I didn’t open the cardboard boxes marked “Roses” because I feared they’d be too hard for me to see. Too hard to think about the candlelight dinner on the floor with the vase of roses beside us, and yet, I would have been better off opening that box because I already knew what was in it. It was the box marked “Fragile” that disarmed me, that made my heart beat out of rhythm and brought me to my knees.

Unlike “Roses,” the contents of “Fragile” were unexpected. It was full of James in the most unexpected ways: the inlaid box he bought me in Italy and surprised me with when we got home; framed photographs of ski trips with family and friends. I even found the place cards from our wedding dinner: a card with “James” and another with “Brenda” written in elegant black script.

Grief and loss are universal. All of us have experienced pain; the pain we feel when we lose part of ourselves to illness, death, divorce and job loss. Do you remember your most painful moments? Have you contrasted them with your life now? Have you thought about putting your feelings down in a journal, a healing tool for your eyes only? Today I’ve put my feelings down in this blog because it helps me make sense of the myriad of emotions I’m feeling because of half-opened cardboard boxes.

Here a box, there a box, everywhere a box-box. James will always be in each and every one. I know he would want me to make today a good day. To do everything intentionally, with love and compassion and reverence for God. I want that for you as well, sweet friends.


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8 thoughts on “Boxes of Life and Love”

  1. Dear Brenda, Wishing you peace and comfort today, as you cherish your memories. All the love and beauty your boxes brought to the fore today are deeply part of who you are. May you feel strength and quiet joy amidst the sadness.

    • Dear Jeanie, Thank you. For some reason, this year’s been harder than last year. Perhaps loss permeates and settles in different nooks and crannies at different rates. I draw strength from you and your well wishes. That you cared enough to leave me a note. Thank you, sweet lady.

  2. Blessings to you, Brenda, and that you’ll be given the strength needed to traverse the long road of grief and the detours that take you to magical and yet unbelievably sad places. ❤️

    • Val,
      I always love seeing that you’ve been here. Thank you. Magical and sad… They seem to be opposite ends of the same teeter totter, which is our road. I’m glad I’m still traveling.

      • Thanks, Brenda. My wonderful youngest brother lost his only daughter, my beloved niece Sarah, age 16, three and a half years ago to leukemia. He had custody of her and had raised her alone since age 8. She was such a strong, spunky kid, it was impossible to believe that this horrendous disease could take her away from us in only 7 months time. As I was going through my jewelry for my daughters the other day, I came across Sarah’s simple silver cross necklace that she used to wear. My brother had given me some of her things after she was gone. It brought back memories of laughing around the fire pit at my brother’s lake house in Wisconsin, telling ghost stories and eating scorched marshmallows that never made it to s’mores. The other side of the coin is that I’m still on Facebook with some of Sarah’s best friends, who are now off on their own adventures at college…and it’s very bittersweet. I look at my little brother, 5 yrs my junior, and I think of all the times I was his protector. Death is the thing that none of us can guard against. I wish I could take away his pain.
        Love to you, Brenda, in this new year. ❤️

  3. My heart goes out to you, Brenda. I can’t believe it has been four years. Where does the time go? You have supported me in so many ways. My prayers go out to you. Love your new blog, by the way. I don’t comment much, but I do appreciate your posts. xox jan

    • Jan,
      I still remember the time I was in California and hoped you lived just up the road so I could come meet you. That was a few months after James died. You remain in my prayers. I admire your courage and strength and am grateful you have a strong community of love and support. I laughed and smiled-so BIG- when I saw the photo you posted after your professional makeover. Makeup Wakeup! You’re a knockout girlfriend, inside and out! Thanks for letting me know you’re still a reader. I love you!

      • I remember that time, too, when you were in California. Thank you for the prayers; they are so appreciated. The makeover was fun, including false eyelashes, which are also mentioned in the Makeup Wakeup book. I love you, too. xo Jan

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