Today, 7 years and 6 months later, I’ve finally decided to throw out the shirt Toby was wearing when he died.
It is so hard to let go of anything that reminds me of Toby, but the other day I was rooting around in my drawers under the bed looking for a pair of black tights and suddenly came across it.
At that moment it struck me that every time I see it, I get a feeling of dread punching me in the gut so why do I want to keep it, it symbolises death, just like the black colour? Every time in the past I looked at it, then put it away again, I just felt I couldn’t let it go as it was the last item of clothing to touch my son’s body.
It is a smart black shirt I bought for him at Primark. When he had a job, I bought him some smart shirts to wear to work and this was among them. Even in grief you can experience moments of black humour and I pondered with his friends after he died whether he had chosen it specially or was it the only shirt that was clean at the time?
Toby wasn’t living with me when he died so I didn’t have a room to clear out; I got two black sacks containing his clothes and belongings from his friend, who he was living with at the time.
Despite my disapproval and nagging Toby was a smoker, and all his clothes smelled of smoke. My immediate instinct was to put them all in the wash, then afterwards I regretted it as I had washed away his smell and his DNA. I kept a few shirts and T shirts that reminded me of him and everything else went to the charity shop, so someone is walking around in my dead son’s clothes. A few months later I found an unwashed sock at the bottom of the laundry basket and buried my nose into it trying to smell him.
I’ve still got two rusty garden chairs as one of my last memories of Toby is him sitting on one reading his book, cigarette in hand just after we had moved here. He left to go home a few days later and that was the last time I saw him.
I’ve got his coat hanging up on the coat hooks near the door; it has been there every day since he left, his glasses and Apple headphones tucked into the top pocket. I don’t mind looking at that as it feels as if he is upstairs somewhere and will pop down at any time, put his coat on, and say ‘Bye Mum, I’ll always love you’, and head on out the door.
The black shirt was returned to me, also in a black sack, by the funeral home; his death clothes discarded as if they were to be thrown out in the trash. It wasn’t the right time to let it go before, but today is the right time.
A couple of years ago I went through my ‘suicide drawer’, where I had stashed all the horrible paperwork I received after Toby died. Police reports, interim death certificates, the post mortem report, the coroner’s report. I realised there would never be a time I would want to sit down and read these documents filled with tragedy, horror and death so I symbolically burned them all and sprinkled the ashes in the sea on Perranuthnoe beach, where the picture was taken that you see on the header for this blog.
I wanted to put the nature of his death firmly in the past and remember him for his life, not for his death or how he died.
All my lovely memories, childhood drawings and photographs etc. are in a memory box covered in Toy Story paper. This I can get out from time to time and remember the happy, wonderful, beautiful boy.
But it is time to say goodbye to the death shirt, which is the final symbol of his death.
Don’t fret about when to say goodbye to things, the right time will reveal itself so if you are not sure, do as I did and tuck them away somewhere and when the time is right you’ll know.