Holy Things: What to part with when every item takes on new meaning

Beer stein from a Heidelberg beer garden with Ron in Germany, 2005

When our loved ones leave us for the other side of life, the things they touched or used, or things connected to memories of them suddenly become sacred relics. They take on a new and precious meaning as we view them differently than we ever did before. We touch them with reverance and sometimes with awe, with the vague notion that maybe some part of them remains behind, holding tight to the things of this life even as our loved one has gone to the next one.

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“He thinks I hung the moon.” That was what I thought when Ron presented me with this gift at a Philly street fair in 2013.

At Ron’s funeral, we had two tables filled with mememtoes of his life such as funny notes he wrote, fraternity souvenirs, rock concert ticket stubs and CDs, t-shirts, Phillies’ and Eagles’ paraphernalia as well as pictures of Ron with family, friends and girls and women he had loved.

Ron’s brother, Joe, and Joe’s sweetheart, Jill, undertook the enormous task of sorting through each and every item.  The task was beyond what I could have ever imagined. Using their intuition and knowledge of Ron’s values, they donated his clothes, shoes and countless other useful items to organizations that could benefit.  What a sad but necessary task that was and I can never adequately express to them the depth of my gratitude.

That process on their part was different from the way Tom and I gathered things we gathered when we visited Ron’s home.  I slowly walked around the house, room to room to room, touching everything that Ron had touched or used.  I ran my hand along the kitchen countertop and brought it to my lips to kiss any remaining DNA that may have remained there.  In the weeks to follow, there were many painful trips there to gradually remove his remaining belongings. How hard it was to pick up items that he had carefully chosen for his own use and then decide the next logical place for each.  Never could I have imagined how many things would become newly precious to me.

I will always wear Ron’s leather gloves and sometimes view the world through the glasses that still hold his fingerprints.

The things that are pictured here are just a few of the items from Ron’s kitchen, bathroom, night stand and clothes closet that we brought home to use, until finally there was nothing left there and we closed the door behind us for the final time.  However, the task of letting go of each “one more thing” still remains and can be elusive. I wonder, does everyone go through this excruciating process following a profound loss? Does tragedy or sudden loss exacerbate the sense of pain and confusion?

I write this now to help me say goodbye to those things I cannot keep when we move into our next place, a place that will be smaller and more compact. I confess I don’t know what to let go of and what I get to keep, as many treasures still surround me, things such as inscribed books, hand-made greeting cards from childhood, the very computer chair I sit on as I type this, a teenage note left on a kitchen table telling us that his friend, Tim, would crash at our house that night, the bath mat I took from the bathroom that I keep rolled up beside my pillow to touch before I drift off to sleep at night, a candle from Ron’s house which we light at each mealtime for a food blessing.

2 foot tall angel gift from Ron for Christmas, 2000.

When we spend time with loved ones, it usually does not enter our consciousness how complete each moment is. When Ron came to our home bearing this alabaster angel so long ago, I laughingly embraced it in delight, never imagining it would become a sacred reminder of his life with us.

So  this question arises day-to-day for those of us who live in the mystery of love, loss and the continuation of life: How do we let go when we have these items around us that keep us holding on to what went before?  If I knew the answer to this, I would at least qualify for a TED talk or an interview on some morning talk show, perhaps a book, Letting Go for Dummies. All I do know is that this is one excruciating process where nothing makes sense and every item seems precious even though most of these things have no intrinsic value of their own.

Still, I treasure the shirt we found on Ron’s bed, which he apparently wore on his last night of life. I hold it to my face and I unsuccessfully try to inhale the scent of his skin, a scent that vanished with the passing of 22 months. I look forward to the small kitchen table and chairs held in storage for us when we move into our next place.  The table has a sticky spot on it that Ron didn’t notice but I did when I ran my hand over it, so I left it there, like something he left for me to find.

As this posting was being proofread by Tom, I sat beside him reading from a book called “Love Letters From God”.  Without my searching, the book opened to a page containing a poem (circa 1570) written by Christian mystic St. John of the Cross. In reading it, I realized that letting go has long been one of our great human challenges:


Tenderly, I now touch all


knowing one day we will


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The Buddha sits in meditatation on my window sill as he once did on the balcony of Ron’s home



Author: Marguerite Sexton

I was born in 1943, the 4th of 5 kids. My parents died when I was 8 and 18 respectively. I am fortunate to have been born to really nice people. My siblings and I sort of raised each other. I am married to Tom Sexton, the sweetest man on earth. My two sons, Ron and Joe, were from my first marriage. Tom brought three kids into our marriage, Tom Jr., Sean and Nicolle. I have lost many loved ones, most notably my mom and dad, my sister, Mary, at age 38, my brother Jack in January of 2015 and my beloved Ron on Christmas morning of 2015. I am grateful for all these beloved people who wait on just the other side of the thin veil.

15 thoughts on “Holy Things: What to part with when every item takes on new meaning”

    1. Marge…not a day goes by that I don’t think of Ron and glance up at his picture. Myles and I just today were talking about Ron. We were in Chik ful la having breakfast after a prosedure Myles had. Thank goodness he’s fine but we were both having the same type of feeling. Maybe Ron was happy to see us together. I truly miss so much. The cross you gave me means so very much to me. Hopefully someday our hearts won’t feel so heavy. ❤️


      1. Thanks for this, Donna. It’s unusual in life to have had the experience of someone like Ron who just really loves his people. You and Miles certainly knew how dear you were to him. you know enough about me to know that I look at things from a spiritual perspective. This day (Halloween) is the day in ancient Celtic spirituality when the spirits of the dead are closest to us. That being the case, when you and Miles were together this morning, you both sensed Ron’s presence somehow and the joy he would have in you being together. Also, your brother, Joe, would have wanted that same thing. Ironically, on this day of 2015 (at just about the time i am writing this), I was alone with Ron for the last time. We took a walk on the trail at Lorimer Park, a beautiful place nearby where we scattered his ashes. I am so happy that Ron’s christening cross brings you comfort. Sending you love.


  1. Yes, Marguerite, we sort through those items that our child had, some more important than others. I think it is important to go through our deceased child’s things slowly and to give some items to others who also cared for our child. Now, having said that, I went a little too fast which will always be my way – “too fast.” Will you keep your son’s chair? I love that you sit in it and write and your husband, Tom, is your first reader. Your son will inspire you to pen your thoughts from a place deep within which will help others who are grieving.


  2. Hi Marge, Especially thinking of you as Christmas approaches and I think the move will be a good change for you. However, moving is “hell” from one who has moved toooo many times. But once you sort through your treasures and settle into a new home, it will be good. It’s the memories you have of and with Ron that will get you through. Love and Peace, Cassie


  3. Dear Marge,
    Thank you for sharing your journey. Everything is energy and to feel Ron’s energy in an item must represent the enthusiasm, determination, generousity, gentleness, kindness, love…that he gave so freely and so tenderly. “tenderly I now touch all things.” Wow never quite thought about “ things” this way before. I do however think about you, Tom and Joe so often and I hold you in the light. The loss. There are no words. Only love. Thank you dear one.


  4. I am so grateful to have been gifted Ron’s iPod and a Lollapalooza Concert t-shirt, which was a summer concert festival that was so integral to our youth. Whenever I listen to music on Ron’s iPod it strikes such a deeper chord with me. I swear, at times when I pick up and touch Ron’s Lollapalooza shirt, I get energy tingling through my body. It’s palpable.

    So appreciative of you continuing to open up your soul and sharing with us Aunt Marge.

    Love you lots.


  5. That poem – so simple and so profound… And the ache and wondering and questions in your words. Oh, Marge, how you continue to move through this journey with such honesty and heightened awareness if such a gift. I remember after my dad died one of his sisters writing to me about going upstairs to the house where he lived and seeing his car in the driveway and all the things that remained inside that they would have to decide what to do with. I remember how much my heart hurt, reading her words, thinking at least you still have pieces of him all around you. I took his wedding shirt and several of his ties from St. Lucia. I wear the shirt every year on the anniversary of his death and just like knowing the ties are in my closet.


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