When my great aunt passed away, I had a chance to look through her things and choose something that I wanted to keep. She never signed her will and while we did donate everything we could, we wanted to keep a few things to remind us of her. While looking through her closet, an olive-green jacket caught my eye. I remember seeing her in it when she came to Thanksgiving dinner. I remember thinking about how soft it was when I hugged her. I took the jacket off of the hanger and I held it close to me. It was still soft. It still smelled like her. I remember I put the jacket on and I wore it the whole ride home. I felt close to her like she was hugging me for a long time.
For weeks, I wore that jacket every day. I wouldn’t go anywhere without it, even though it was starting to get hot. I wanted to feel close to her. You see, my great aunts’ death was very sudden and unexpected. One minute she was fine and the next, she wasn’t. I still love her and I still miss her. I was in shock by the fact that she was gone. She was really gone. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was overwhelmed by stress and grief. Every time I opened my contacts in my phone, I would see her name, every time I looked through “my favorites” on YouTube I would see the video my cousin made for her 80th birthday. Everything reminded me of her so, when I got overwhelmed, I would put on the jacket because it made me feel calm. It made me feel like everything was going to be okay.
I haven’t been totally honest, at this time, I had two jackets. I had my great aunts’ jacket and my jacket. It is not soft or comforting or even remotely warm. It houses all of my fears and doubts. I have worn my jacket every day for as long as I can remember. Every time I failed or got upset, my jacket would get heavier with the weight of the insults. It was hard to carry mentally and physically. Every day I was weighed down by my jacket and it made my life hard but when I had my great aunts’ jacket it took some of the weight off it made my life a little easier and it made me a little happier.
I have been told by many people that I am weird for washing my jackets. “You don’t need to wash them.” “You only wear them outside.” Jackets get dirty too so in my humble opinion they need to be washed. I knew that I would need to wash my great aunts’ jacket soon. As the time came near, I found myself getting scared. I didn’t want to wash it because it was hers…and she didn’t tell me if she wanted me to wash it or not. I didn’t want to wash it because I didn’t know if it was dry clean only. I didn’t want to wash it because it reminded me of her and I was scared that if I washed it, it wouldn’t remind me of her anymore and then I wouldn’t have anything to remind me of her. I tried to convince myself that everything would still be okay if I washed it but nothing worked. I often found myself standing in front of my washing machine, jacket in hand, just frozen. Unsure if I should wash it or not. When I was finally able to move again, I would close the washing machine, hold the jacket close to me, and walk back to my room.
Eventually, the guilt of not being able to wash her jacket set in and my jacket got heavier and tighter. I was disgusted that I wore such a thing every single day. It was ugly. The sleeves were made out of my failures. The back had all the reasons why I was trash on it. The front had all my bad decisions on it. And the buttons? The buttons were a relatively new addition. The buttons were the word “whore” written vertically, going down the whole length of the jacket in all caps. The buttons always stayed closed. My jacket squeezed my chest, suffocating me. I collapsed under the weight of the stupid imaginary jacket that I let dictate my life for as long as I could remember. I am not trash. I am not stupid. I am not a whore.
I stopped carrying the jackets with me in late April. My great aunts’ jacket had a permanent place on my coat hanger by my desk (so I could always see it) and my jacket stayed in the back of my mind (it had a habit of lurking around when it wasn’t wanted). I was able to stand again, yes, I still felt the weight but it wasn’t as bad. I felt sad that I wasn’t able to carry my great aunts’ jacket with me but I felt better knowing that I could always see it when I got home. But my fears of washing her jacket came back. It was almost time to put my winter things in storage and her jacket was one of the things that needed to be put away.
My thoughts swirled with fears and my jacket found its way back on me. This time it came with a scarf of guilt and anxiety that covered my mouth. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t do anything. I was angry that I couldn’t put a jacket in the washing machine. That’s all I needed to do and I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to lose her again because I felt like I would be losing a piece of myself again. But I came to realize that it was her time to go. She was given the chance to not be in pain again and live with her son again and she took it. She is happy now and that’s what she deserves. She isn’t going to be mad at me for washing it. I’m not going to be losing her again and I’m not going to be losing myself. I have a whole brain full of memories with her. This jacket this material thing isn’t the last thing I have to remind me of her.
I grabbed her jacket and held it close. I slowly walked to the washing machine, lifted up the top and carefully placed her jacket inside. I put in the Tide and the Downy and I washed her jacket. What did I do with my jacket you ask? I decided I needed a new one. A positive one. So, I burned it. That jacket and that mindset will be a thing of the past. While I know it will be a struggle to keep a positive mindset getting rid of the negative one is a good first step. I survived my grief. I learned how to live under tough circumstances. I was and still am a mangrove. I now see the silver lining and the seeds of my happiness are starting to grow. Yes, for a while, I did break. Yes, I am still trying to piece myself together. But I will not stay this way. As the ancient art of Kintsugi fixed the broken bowl, it will also fix me. And eventually, the seeds of my happiness will be fully grown and I will again, be whole.

Sadie is a freshman in college. She studies philosophy and religion and plans to work in the ethics department of a children’s hospital. Sadie spends her time writing, participating in musicals, singing, playing the violin, and most importantly studying. writing has always been something that Sadie loves. Her best pieces are based on her real life and what she feels.