Keep Things Simple

Yesterday, I got a message from my sister Kirby, who died in October 2009. I actually had the unique experience of hearing her speak.

Kirby trying to play Stuart's (our dad's cousin) bagpipes.

While I sat in the courtroom yesterday and listened to a recording of her voice just a few hours before she died, I heard her words–words I’ve heard before–in a different way.

I looked up at the picture in the PowerPoint presentation that the Prosecutor was playing the clip from, and it felt like her voice was coming from above, filling the cavernous courtroom.

She said, “The dead are with us… the loved ones of our past are with us.”

And I heard, “I am with you.”

Then she shared a revelation that came to her from our Great Uncle Bob, a piece of advice he had given her when he was still alive and that she kept with her like a mantra.

Keep things Simple.

There are so many ways to apply and interpret that, but now, while I try to create my self-styled life, this is what it means to me: There are a lot of distractions in life, so many different places to focus, so many diversions. We need to strip all that away and focus on what we KNOW, on that which is essential to who we are. What we love and value above all else, and go from there.

Because I’m into design and décor, I use this analogy. Picture a room. A room with a specific function, like a bedroom. To be a bedroom, all it needs is a bed to sleep on. But you can’t remove that one item for it to be a bedroom. No problem.

A simple space.

But we want to make it pretty, beautiful, interesting. So we add throw pillows, curtains, other furniture, objets, pictures on the wall, a rug on the floor. This is all fine and well. But if you fill it with too many things–so many that you can no longer find the bed–suddenly, the room can’t fill its function anymore. You need to pare it down, let the room be what it was meant to be.

Of course, life is not as easy as a spring cleaning. Even when we find it once, when we achieve simplicity, when we clear the space of our soul and find that one thing that can never be removed from that space because That is what we are, the distractions come back. And they are not always bad. They can be fun, edifying even, beautiful. But if we let them clutter our space, we lose that one essential thing. It happens over and over and over. That’s life, right? A constant effort to keep it simple.

And just accepting that this is always the effort is itself a start.

It’s unreal, the manner in which I got to hear those words from my sister, and it was hard to sit and listen without showing too much emotion in front of a jury that is there to decide how my sister died and if someone is responsible.

But it’s kind of amazing, in another way, that I was able to hear that message from her. And I took it back yesterday. When she said it on October 8, 2009, it was to a group of people she’d just met days before.

But yesterday, she said it to me.

Kirby providing me with my "something blue"--an aquamarine ring that we had set in Thailand and I have now.

 Do you have words or objects you keep with you from loved ones past?

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11 responses to “Keep Things Simple

  1. Pingback: Why does all the sh!t hit the fan at the same time? « the self-styled life·

  2. This was very much a touching thought you shared. I did not know what to expect from your blog, but I must say, I do not feel disappointed that I clicked it. Thank you for taking the time out to share something so meaningful.

    Something I keep from my aunt Cecilia is a stuffed rabbit that she used to have in her room. I always liked to play with it when I went over to her house, so she finally let me keep it. When she died, I realized that other than a picture of her, it is the only thing I have to remember her by. It reminds me of her bubbly personality and how she always believed in enjoying yourself.

    • Thanks for reading–I’m glad my blog was an enjoyable discovery for you!
      Very sweet about your Aunt’s stuffed rabbit. It’s nice to have something cuddly, too. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Wow is all I can say. I had no idea about your sister, but from her wise words of wisdom she sounds like someone we can all learn a thing or two from. I still keep this birthday card my grandmother gave me the year before she passed away. It wasn’t long, just simply reminding me how proud she was of all my accomplishments. We share the same birthday, not to mention the middle name Morningstar (hence the title of the blog). Whenever I get stressed, down on myself, or lose my confidence I look back at that card and remember she’s still smiling down on me.

    • That’s very sweet about the card from your grandmother. It’s nice when you share things like your name, too. I have a few “confidence boosters” as well–including a book report I wrote in 7th grade!

  4. Beautifully written Jean and what a gift to be given yesterday in the midst of the the ugliness of court. Thank you for sharing your take aways with all of us. It’s a lesson we could all use to remember.

    • Thanks, Rachel! Yes, it was hard to sit there through it, but Sheila did such a good job with her closing that I had to appreciate it–and it was kind of special in a weird way to hear Kirby’s words. Yeah, sometimes it’s a serious struggle to find the good in otherwise crap situations!

  5. Helpful and moving piece, Jean. I have an old wool Pendleton shirt that was my Grandpa Johnson’s. It is a little tight on me, but I like to keep it around because it reminds me of Grandpa and his discipline, which I can always use more of. I have been yearning to do a big Spring cleaning on my space, and then maybe move out!

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