At one time the porch contained the many objects of my neighbor’s life—the things that made her happy, the many items she obviously wanted to see each time she walked into her house, what she wanted to present to passersby as the myriad representations of her self.
And lately, each time I have driven by it, I have been struck by its emptiness, by the bleakness. It looks hollow, and sometimes I have felt hollow looking at it.
Others might drive by, others who didn’t know her, who never knew this porch before this moment, and see cleanliness, order, a house fastidiously kept.
But they don’t know what it once was, what it once represented—how one day everything—in all its eccentric glory–was there and the next it was gone. How could they? How can any of us know when looking at anything what it once was or what it means or has meant to another?
It is easy to wax existential at times like these—to think about how one day we’re here and then one day we’re not, how one day our stuff is here and the next it is not.
But stuff is, of course, just stuff. And though we spend our lives coveting and collecting material objects, what’s indelible, what remains after we’re gone is our sense of spirit, what we’ve imparted to and done for others. The inanimate is ultimately and merely a representation of the animate, of what matters.
My neighbor’s life–robust and lively and filled with humor–made a difference in the lives of so many, including mine. And for me, her porch will always hold memories of her–who she was, what she valued. She sat on her porch and took the time to talk with others. She connected with and cared deeply about the world. She lived life until the very end.
A porch devoid of stuff but filled with spirit.
Now I get it.
And how fortunate I feel.