Use your special dishes or…you are worthy!

Written by Nathalie Kalbach. Posted in Photos

Some of my readers know that the last two months have been a bit hard for regarding my beloved great-aunt Margot. So this is a bit of heavyhearted post, but I promise there is a point to be so long-winded and for what I thought was a beautiful lesson.

My aunt Margot, who is 93, had a heart attack and a stroke in June. She miraculously survived and she is doing now a lot better again. Of course the stroke took it’s toll and her dementia is now worsened to a point that we cannot fulfill her wish anymore to stay alone in her apartment.

About 15 years ago my aunt Margot had asked me if I would be her care taker and back then when I was in my mid twenties, I said of course yes, but I was also scared and I didn’t see why she would need to think about dementia and/or her passing away. She would set up photos and talk about how she would like to have things handled if the “unspeakable” would happen. She chose an elderly home but made me do a promise, that I would let her live in her apartment as long as possible and I did so. The last yeas she had meals on wheels, someone doing grocery shopping for her and running errands and nurses coming in in the morning and the evening to help her.

When aunt Margot recovered a bit from her heart attack and stroke I was told she would under no circumstance be able to live alone in her apartment any longer, even if I continued with the services that were set up for her. I had decided long ago that I would talk openly with her about decisions and so I thought it would the hardest day when I finally went to tell her. It wasn’t. She has always been a very positive and also practical person and when we talked about her going to an elderly home, she actually said, that she understands that this is a good decision. She was sad, but I could also tell she was relieved because the last incident had scared her a lot.

Two days before my flight was scheduled to Canada a room in the elderly home she had picked, freed up and we had to move her in within a week. Needless to say it was a bad timing and that the two days before my long trip were a nightmare to organize everything, especially if you take into account that I live about 4 hours away from her. My husband then took care of the first wave of furniture, setting her room up and making sure she would get into the new home finding some of her beloved belongings. The rest I had to take care of later when I was back from the trip.

She adjusted well, although a bit sad in her new home. The nurses told me that they love her, she is a happy person and she is such a good spirit that she even makes the grumpiest guys that never laugh, giggle. My other great-aunt, Waltraud, who is 86, actually took it a lot harder. I think, the thought of being in this position maybe soon, is weighing very hard on her. Also seeing my aunt Margot forgetting how to do every day life things, like how to comb her hair or how to fix a roll for breakfast is something that she and also I have a hard time to digest.

I spare you with a lot of things that had to be done in between, I am sure that many of you have been already in similar situations, so you know about the emotional rollercoaster ride, the worries about your loved ones, the huge amount of work and logistics that go along with it, the unspeakable time you have to spent on paperwork (one more stupid letter from health insurance and I might go bonkers!), paying bills and bills and sorting things. But I would like to point one thing out….LOL- the thing that this whole post was actually going to be about.


As the room of my aunt in her elderly home is just a small room, I had to go through all her belongings in her huge 2-bed room (3-Zimmer Wohnung in Deutschland) apartment. It never occurred to me what an emotional draining process this would be. Yes, I know she is still alive and I am sure it is even harder if you have to go through the things when you lost your loved one. But nonetheless, mind you, there is someone who you have to tell why a certain piece can’t make it’s way to the new home. The short disappointed look, with some tears building up, and then she catches herself and says “oh well, it is all ok, I just don’t think about it, it is what it is and I have a good home here” And on the other hand you have these beautiful moments, when you carried in another one of her little treasures and how her face lightens up and she is all giddy with excitement and tells you a story that belongs to that certain piece with that you just made her day with.

Going through things that my aunt had treasured made me cry all the time. Taking all her things in my hand and making the decision to either, bring it to her, give it to someone else, take it myself or throw it away has made me almost crazy. Even my husband who helped me some of the days was visibly touched by this process. (It’s ok hubs, Dudes have feelings too ;) ).

 

These are things that someone took a whole live to collect. So many things: photos, slides (thousands from 1963 to 2003), tchotchke, vases, table clothes, clothing, papers, letters, books, music, medicine (anyone up for some medicine outdated in the 50s?), the gun that I had to call the police for to collect (what was she thinking? That she would shoot the intruder while holding on to her walker?), crafting boxes with finished and unfinished pieces, Christmas-Easter-EveryDay-Decoration, glasses, handbags throughout every decade of her life… the list could go on and on.

And then there are those dishes – the sets. There is the one that she got for her wedding in the 40s – a whole coffee and dinner set – 24 pieces each single item. It was the one for the super special occasions – 12 pieces her wedding set and the fitting 12 set that was from even earlier as my great grandparents got it for their wedding.  It fit into three moving boxes!

And then the 10-piece set. The one that was for the normal special occasions. And the one for normal special Sundays. And the better 6-piece set for a better dinner and of course the 6 -piece set for the everyday life- oh wait, there is two of those sets.

My husband and I decided to take the 24 piece one—-I know…..it is a LOT…but I couldn’t live with the thought of just dumping it and we were saying…you know what…we can use it for super special occasions and it is a family heirloom.

When I was talking to my other aunt, Waltraud, we were talking about how hard it is to do these decisions. So I mentioned the special dishes and she looked at me and said something that stuck to me in such a way, it made me write this post.

 

She said: “You know….there is one thing I already regret and it might sound weird, but I do regret that I did not use my  special dishes every day especially when I knew that Walter (explaining note: my uncle who died a couple of years ago of cancer), would die soon. Why do we not make every day special and use those plates? And so what, if one of those dishes breaks! You and Jim should use it every day now, otherwise you will just hoard it in your cabinet, the special occasions will be less and less and in the end….one of your younger relatives will take it and also just store it in their cabinet until they have a special occasion they can use it. What is the point of it? Think about it!”

Have you heard what she said? I did. I swallowed hard. She is so right. What is the special special occasion? Isn’t every day worth to celebrate with the wonderful things you have? These things are dear to you because you chose them – USE THEM! Isn’t every day special? Aren’t you special enough to use your special dishes, or the special dress or to spent  time on something special on a normal day! You are Worthy – so go and do something special tomorrow, and if it is just setting up the dinner table with the super special dishes you have.

Nat

 

 

Comments (26)

  • marianne/skorpionen

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    Your aunt Waltraud seems to be a very wise lady!! It’s important to live in the moment, not to save “for later”. You never know if “later” comes around.
    I loved this post, the photos, your descriptions of your aunts and the strong and tough feelings you are going trough.
    Warm hugs from me to you xo

    Reply

  • Deborah Pierro

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    Nat–You are such a wonderful niece to your aunt that had to go into a senior care home (and the other aunt). Just know that you’ve been there for her in every way. I can understand what you’ve been going through because I am very sensitive and feel very deeply about my loved ones, and even some acquaintances who need help. Thanks for putting into words what you’ve been going through. –Deb

    Reply

  • Cuchy

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    Your aunts can feel happy to have such a special niece on you, Nat. I hope the words of wisdom from your aunt Waltraud, help you going through these hard moments. Loves, cuchy

    Reply

  • marjiekemper

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    Amen, Nat!!!!!!!!! My heart goes out to you with all those decisions. Went through this with my mom 2 years ago and she had a large house full of decisions to be made. What good advice you are sharing. I hope all who read it will feel free to use their precious things. They are just things, and if one breaks… it’s not the end of the world by a long shot. Better to have only half a set due to breakage in use, than a whole set untouched on a shelf in the basement.

    Reply

  • Martha Richardson

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    What a beautiful, touching post. I know where your heart is and how sad it is but your Aunt should be thankful that you are such a wonderful niece who would honor her treasures & collections. Yes, use those dishes…with love!

    Reply

  • Sharmaine Kruijver

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    Hey Nat :)
    Having gone through a very similar process with my Great Aunt a few years ago I love that you put all of this into words AND encouraged people to think. You are amazing and I just wanted to let you know I think so!

    Reply

  • Marsha.

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    Huge hugs to you Nat!

    Reply

  • sylvia

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    what a wonderful post Nat! i know about this process – went through something similar when my grandparents moves out of their apartment of 40 years… love the message, your aunt is so right!! Hugs to you!

    Reply

  • zoegakatten

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    Oh Nat! This made me cry. You are so right! Thank you so much for sharing this. You are fabulous and it’s so wonderful that you’ve been able to be there for your aunt! Hugs!

    Reply

  • france papillon

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    what a beautiful post sweetie, i loved reading it. Thanks for sharing so much!
    Sending you a huge bereknuffel!! and hoping we will meet soon again, so that i can give you a real one :) miss ya

    Reply

  • Anne-Mette

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    WHAT a wise aunt you have – we could all learn from that… remember to celebrate the everyday life. Thank you for reminding us :-)

    Reply

  • pearlmaple

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    Oh Nat,
    So beautifully written and how very true, every day is a special day when we get to spend them with family and friends. 25 yrs on my dad’s hat still hangs next to the front door. Taking the time to reflect on the importance of our family and our treasures is a special occassion.

    Reply

  • Riikka

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    Huge hugs!

    This post made me all teary eyed and the last two paragraphs were so powerful that they sent shivers don my spine and made goosebumps.

    What a wise aunties you have!

    Reply

  • ulrika_m

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    THAT was the best advice I got in a long time … thanks!

    Reply

  • Genya

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    Vielen Dank! Was für eine schöne Sache zu sagen!

    Reply

  • Michelle McCosh

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    Love your post today. Yes, we should all use the special dishes every day. Thanks for the reminder.

    Reply

  • Gillian Pearce

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    What a beautiful post Nat. How wonderfully you’ve managed the past few weeks. You’re such an inspiration. Lots of love to you.

    Gillian

    Reply

  • Sue Clarke

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    Your post has touched me Nat. I always love to hear about your Aunt Margot.
    Reminds me of when my great grandmother died and we were cleaning out her apt. She had tons of new nightgowns that she was “saving for best” and wore ones that were threadbare. We ended up giving them away and I remember (at the young age of 12) thinking that I wished she had thought every day worthy of wearing them.
    HUGS

    Reply

  • Chris Domino

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    My thoughts are with you and your family as you face this difficult journey helping your aunt.I traveled a similar journey for and with my Mom. My Mom’s neighbor was a wise person and when faced with going through all of the house, she told me to think about what I would truly miss if I never saw it again. It helped me decide what to offer to cousins and friends, or to donate. I have few regrets.

    Reply

  • Kelly Belton

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    What a beautiful and touching post Nat, thank you for sharing the wisdom of your aunts with us. I absolutely agree with your Aunt Waltraud. Many years ago I worked as a “bridal consultant” at Canada’s oldest jewellery store, and I always advised brides when choosing a china pattern to choose something that they loved enough to use every day, and then encouraged them to do so. Life is short and filled with people and things we cherish. Why would you not want to surround yourself with them every day?
    I’m going to serve the family dinner on my finest china today, just because!
    We should all take heart that there is so much to gained by being a loving part of someone else’s life…
    Best to you …..

    Reply

  • Laurie

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    Oh, Nathalie, what an amazing post. Who knew, when I saw you at Bizzy B, what you’d been going through. Years ago I had a set of good dishes which I rarely used and stored in a closet on a rickety shelf. One day the shelf came crashing down and with it all the dishes, which smashed into smithereens. Since that day I have never wanted to own good dishes again. I bought practical, everyday dishes that I like and use every day. I don’t entertain much, so why do I need good dishes? And if I do entertain, folks are coming over to see me, not to judge my dishes!

    Reply

  • Liz

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    I totally agree with your aunt…. I came to that realization years ago (actually, I guess it’s genetic… my parents feel the same way), hence… no special, special dishes. All my dishes are special and we use them every day. And when others have said: oh, what if the kids break a piece? then the answer was… they have to learn somehow to take care of things and to appreciate things.

    That said, I hate eating from paper/plastic dishes….

    Reply

  • Sherri Sinclair

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    Nathalie this is a beautiful writing that I so agree with. I’m going to share with my friends and family but especially my mother so hopefully she’ll enjoy her dishes, she is in her seventies. Thank you.

    Reply

  • Angelika Westermann

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    Hi Nathalie, I can so relate with what you have been writing about! My parents who are now 88 and 82 are pondering to leave their house and go live in an elderly home. Can you imagine what we are looking at – a whole 2 storey house with a huge cellar, and everything is crammed with a lifetime’s collection of glasses, dishes, table cloths and so on and so forth, not to mention hundreds of books. Every time we think about it we just hope it will go away of it’s own accord… And yes, there should be neither special dishes nor special clothes, because life should be lived every day!

    Reply

  • Mary Bennetts

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    I can so relate to this post. My Mum nearly 95 had to go into a nursing home 12 mths ago after a fall and living out of town for four years by herself since Dad died. We tried to give Mum her wish to stay in her own home as Long as we could, but Mum was also in the stages of dementia and after the fall it was just getting to dangerous , even with carers going three times a day , meals on wheels ect.
    I cried an ocean packing up the family home they built and lived in for over 60 years. I was packing up somebodies life, like you said all the little treasures ect and what to do with them. It broke my heart
    I so agree with your Aunts wise words. Use the things we like and treasure, we have them because they bring us joy, not to be stuck away in a cupboard.
    Love to you Nat, it is not a easy time
    Mary

    Reply

  • Milagros

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    Son momentos muy difíciles, cuando me padre murio el Julio pasado y hubo que revisar sus cosas para ver que se hacia con ellas, que momentos mas duros, cada objeto era una emoción y un montón de lagrimas.
    Abrazos

    Reply

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