The late comedian George Carlin had a routine aptly called “stuff”.  The routine is a about all the things we accumulate over time, that we keep, that makes us feel secure and that we find useful in travels.  With my recent move I experienced that which he described, that accumulation of things and memories comprising my “stuff”.  The need to pore through it all, to learn all of its nuances and to evaluate its true relevance to my life became necessary.  In thirteen years I had built a life in Chapel Hill, built a life raising my son and by making friends.  With all of it came the stuff that makes memories and with all of it came a certain sadness, the sadness of leaving something endeared behind.

Before cancer I was like most, accumulating the things that made memories and those considered practical.  There were family pictures, albums containing the likenesses of those who came before me, there were those recording memories made with my son and memories of good friends.  With the photos came things like school records, report cards of mine and those of my son, both a generation apart, but interesting in comparison.  There were things like my skydiving logbook, necessary things like vehicle titles and then the records of a disease, the lab reports, the CDs of all the imaging studies and the medical reports, the memories of something presumed to have gone wrong and that precipitating the need for the change at hand.  Add to all of this there are all those things useful to a ‘do it yourselfer’ homeowner, one who can fix almost anything, who is capable of repairing the impossible and who seems to have the tool for every occasion and one finds a lot of ‘stuff’.

In poring through all this ‘stuff’, it became necessary to decide on what really mattered, what, if anything, really mattered.  In some ways this process was a commentary on a life, a life of many endeavors, of many highs and of many lows.  It was, in many ways, an evaluation of whether this life, my life, really mattered, whether I made a difference in the world, whether my existence was in some way productive, and, as characterized by Harry Chapin’s grandfather, I achieved my ‘good tired’.  It was a hard process consisting of many decisions because had it not been for cancer things would be different.  If not fr cancer I would most assuredly have continued with my life as it were, continued along the path of aging ‘normally’ and doing those things we all do as we age.  Rather than disassembling memories, deciding which merit saving, I would be adding to them, saving them to pass to my son for him to build upon, to make his own.  But instead, practical matters come to bear since my son, now in a college dorm, has no place to store these memories, his life has yet to fully blossom and the normal transfer unable to take place over time.

When thinking about all things, ‘stuff’ included, I wonder what it all really means.  Perhaps that I am forced to give up a lot of ‘stuff’, to yield the records comprising my life and the lives of those before me, I am really not giving up anything.  Perhaps when all is considered, when in the end all is measured, by relinquishing the memories of the past, of past lives, there is an opportunity for new beginnings for those who follow me.  Perhaps by giving up the ‘stuff’, by burying it in the landfill or recycle bin, I bury with it this disease and all the challenges it brings.  Perhaps in the end by yielding my ‘stuff’, I free my son of cancer and that can’t be a bad thing.

Happy reading, happy thoughts and happy trails.

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