Bernadette’s Room

It’s been so long since I wrote a blog entry that I actually feel a little gun shy!  And yet there hasn’t been a shortage of things to write about, just not the time or mental energy to do it.

In late January, I asked Marc what he thought of the idea of trying to sell the Sorrento house instead of putting the Salmon Arm house on the market again in the spring – or even putting both houses on the market and seeing which one would sell first.  He was so excited at the idea that I started to question why we didn’t do it a long time ago.  Later, in the quiet of my office, the answer suddenly hit me:  It was never an option, we couldn’t leave where Bernadette died!  What in heaven’s name was I thinking suggesting listing the house and why didn’t I think about it before mentioning the bright idea to Marc?  ‘Why, oh why, oh why?’  But then the more I thought about it, maybe the fact that neither of us thought of it while we were planning it out was a sign that we were both ready to let go?  Maybe Marc was ready the year before and I wasn’t?  I don’t remember.  But as I sat there and let the implications of selling the Sorrento house sink in, I knew I could do it whereas before it just wasn’t an option.

One consoling fact was that Sorrento was where she died, but her body is at rest in Salmon Arm.  We’re made of body and spirit and after death we look forward to the day when our bodies and souls are reunited. So really, an eternal part of Bernadette is still with us at the Mt. Ida Cemetery.  That was worth more to me than just the memory of the moment she died – though that moment will forever be etched into my memory.  I remember standing in Mass saying that line in the creed “We believe in the Resurrection of the dead”  and telling God that He may have her soul but we still have her body.  My outburst of two-year-old defiance.  Of course He has her better half but her physical half will one day live again, so it was better to stay closer to that part of her than to a memory.

Second consoling fact was that we were going back to a house that was also filled with memories of Bernadette, though I admit, more distant ones.  We moved there when she was just four months old and moved back to Sorrento when she was three and a half.  Still, it may sound silly, but it eased my heart to know that we were going somewhere that Bernadette once called home.

For the next five months we were very busy with preparing to list the house, with showings and keeping the house in ‘show condition’, with the stress and drama of offers and house inspections, financing, etc.  Once we knew all the conditions had been removed on the latest offer and the house was sold, we had to turn our attention to packing, cleaning, planning, moving, renovating, more cleaning, unpacking, and lots of organizing.  Not to mention trying to explain over and over to Zoe what was happening and assuring her that we were not going to leave any of her toys behind, or her bed, or her clothes.

But in all the activity that went on, never a day went by that we weren’t painfully aware of what we were losing and the need to kept reminding ourselves of what we were gaining.

One of the biggest challenges we had was what to do with all Bernadette’s Wish Foundation Barbie toys.  In the Sorrento house, we were able to hide them all in the cubby under the stairs that had a locked door.  Zoe knew they were there, having caught a glimpse of them a few times, but she also knew she wasn’t allowed to play with them.   The closer we got to emptying the house, the more concerned she got that all that stuff was still there under the stairs.  She was even more worried about us leaving the toys behind than if we forgot anything of hers!  So where were we going to put it all in a smaller house with zero storage space for the likes of a Barbie three story Dream House, plaza, pet parlor, camper, etc.?

Thankfully we had a shed out back that had a gungy, dirty, creaky, nature infested attic storage area upstairs.  Marc was able to clear and clean it out, reinforce the floor, build safer stairs and a railing, put in new windows and wire mesh to keep nature out, paint, carpet, etc. and turn it into what we eventually named, “Bernadette’s Room”.   There is a memorial picture of Bernadette up as you come up the stairs to remind the girls to whom they can be thankful for all the brand new toys they have to play with.  Well not all, Catherine added a few favorites that she and Bernadette use to play with together.

Zoe is in 7th heaven in that she can finally play with all those mysterious pink toys that were hidden away behind a locked door!  She knows they use to belong to Bernadette and that she can’t just go up there to play without Catherine – because she still has a strong tendency to chew toys.  She’s just so happy that we’re finally allowing her to play with them at all.

Bernadette’s Room is not a room open to the neighbourhood kids, of which there are a handful of little girls.  It’s only known to our family and for now it’s how we’d like to keep it.  Eventually when we’re ready, like when we were eventually ready to let go of the house Bernadette died in, we’ll be ready to let go of the iron grip we (I) have on those plastic toys she never even got to play with, and welcome other little girls to enjoy them too.   In the famous words of Aragorn at the gates of Mordor on the eve of what appeared to be certain defeat in battle, “but not THIS day!”

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