My brother Jeff died 16 months ago. He was my hero and my heart. And one of the most selfless, gentle, and caring souls I could hope to know, let alone be able to call 'my brother'. Ever since Maxwell asked the AT bloggers to consider sharing stories of giving this holiday season, I've been bombarded with thoughts of Jeff, no matter how hard I try to think of an example of my own giving. Jeff's ability to give, as a brother, and as a person was THAT big, that my own examples of generosity pale in comparison. I'll resist the urge to list the the endless examples of his generous spirit. Jeff, a lifelong carpenter, and I shared a love of creative and resourceful design. He died six months before I became a blogger for Apartment Therapy Boston but there are so many ways that the things and gifts he left behind, both tangible and spiritual, embed themselves in my blogging every day. Jeff's environmental ethos, his sense of humor, his ability to think outside the box, his belief in "living simply, so others can simply live" and his resourcefulness all itch at my back when I'm considering what to blog or how to blog. After Jeff died, I received a card from a childhood friend named Ana, who held a memory that I'd long ago forgotten. In the card she recounted a story that involved me, Ikea shelves, and Jeff...(photos of my Jeff memorial objects below the jump)
Ana was in the room (we were about 18 and Jeff was 24) when Jeff presented me with custom wood shelves that he'd made for my Ikea metal bookshelf frame. As I read the card from Ana, I remembered that I had bought the bookshelf frame but was really unhappy with the laminate shelves which were the only options at that time. Jeff excitedly came up with alternate, solid wood shelves, including an intricate corner edge design that was far more interesting and beautiful than the original Ikea shelves (the shelves are currently at my parent's house). In the card, Ana described her memory of Jeff's look of love and hopeful anticipation that I'd like the shelves.
(Ana's card, and the others like them that followed Jeff's death taught me an unforgettable lesson in sharing our memories: receiving Ana's memories of my brother was the most cherished gift I could receive after his death because it supplemented my own at a time when I couldn't yet come to grips with the fact that there would no longer be the chance to create new memories with Jeff.)
The retrofitted bookshelves followed on the heels of a beautiful futon frame that Jeff also made for me, which I now use in my guest bedroom. He treated the project with such painstaking care that he had to delay his long anticipated departure to move out West .
My apartment is sprinkled with tons of reminders of Jeff: his bright yellow carpentry level perched above a window frame (it's happened more than once that someone points out that I must have forgotten to remove the level); the blue modular bookshelves that he made over 20 years ago (they actually open up to create a desk system - you can see them in this recent blog post); framed sketches of a small, simple home he thought about building at one time; his plywood containers which taught me to LOVE the beauty of plywood; a random piece of wood with his initial on it; his large tool chest which I use as storage piece in my bathroom; a piece of driftwood that I found in his belongings: and on and on. These objects, in tandem with my memories, remind me daily that he's near and they remind me of his capacity to give and to create, inspiring me to push my own boundaries of generosity, love, and creativity. These objects will never replace my brother but I'm grateful every day for their existence in my home and life.
I would love to hear about the objects you cherish from loved ones who have died and how you relate to these objects on a daily basis. Wishing you peace this holiday and if you have siblings, I hope that you're able to savor them as best you can.