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  • Carrie Etter

What the Dead Leave Behind

This July will be the tenth anniversary of my mother's death. She had gone into the hospital the day before and was scheduled for a colonoscopy. She died on the table before they could begin the procedure. It was the day before her 66th birthday, and I was due to visit a couple weeks later.

I spent a month living at the family home and going through her things, mostly trying to organize the endless piles and piles and piles of papers, in case any were needed for taxes, etc. and to find a signed copy of her will, which I finally uncovered about halfway through the trip. I did my best to set aside mementos, photos, etc., but I had limited time and much was left undone. As a result, treasures I expected to stay in the family, such as my father's AP photographs, including a number of such political figures as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Adlai Stevenson, were thrown out or lost.

I write this from my home office, with its five floor-to-ceiling bookcases, its overstuffed filing cabinet, its endless notebooks and papers. Who will go through all of this? Who could have the patience or degree of interest besides myself? I wouldn't even ask that of my dear husband. I'd rather he wandered in here occasionally for an hour, then returned to his own interests.

On one of my shelves, I have one box file with the label The Modie Box and another marked Modie 2. Modie (pronounced Moddy--goodness knows why I didn't prefer a phonetic spelling) was what I first called Bernadine Marie Meeker Etter and still called her from time to time as I grew older and over the years. July 29 and 30 are for those boxes. It'll be a thanksgiving.

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