Letting Go

You reach a certain age and letting go becomes a way of life. At times, it’s a gift you give your children lest they be stuck with sorting your stuff when you’re gone. At other times, it’s a gift you give yourself. For the oddest assortment of reasons. And under the oddest assortment of occasions.

After two plus weeks of back to back reunions, dinner dates, breakfast parties, brown bag lunches, and house guests, I closed out mid-summer with an assemblage art workshop at the C Gallery in Los Alamos. For several weeks I’d been collecting items languishing in the dark corners of drawers, sewing bins, hall cupboards, and the garage’s magical sawed-off milk cartons of washers and wing nuts. I was at a point of being willing to let go the ordinary functions of these objects to imagine them in a new way.

Everything in my stash was emblematic or related to someone significant – three tin trivets inherited from the 92 year old woman that lived with us for several years at the end of her life, an art nouveau sugar bowl inherited from my maternal aunt who succumbed to dementia, a stained tea ball belonging to my mother, assorted washers salvaged from my father-in-law’s garage after his death during the Sylmar earthquake, brown woven leather buttons reminiscent of my father’s ancient letterman’s sweater, two daguerreotypes of unidentified ancestors pried from a gold watch locket, a collaged piece of costume jewelry made during a fond period of creativity, alabaster napkin rings, a gift for thanked hospitality, and the face of my paternal grandfather’s gold pocket watch. Tangible items of times or people who no longer exist. It is entitled As Time Goes By.

A second assemblage, entitled A Long View of Time, framed a tiny telescope, a favorite pair of earrings no longer fashionable, and the etched initials or the inner workings of my paternal grandfather’s pocket watch, depending on which way it swings. Time. Letting go of times past. Letting go of things past. Letting go of people passed. Without conscious intention, my art work during the retreat was about time and the inevitability of letting go.

Not surprising after a 50th reunion and the letting go of all those I’d hoped to see, but didn’t come. The letting go of the dreamed of conversations with those I knew were coming but didn’t manage more than a glad greeting let alone a meaningful moment. Not surprising after letting go of a fun few days with my sister-in-law adding new discoveries to the family archives. Or the yearly visit of a beloved brother and a perfect day at the beach with my only granddaughter. Not surprising when the news came that the matriarch on my mother’s side of the family had passed away. Not surprising when the beloved husband of a cherished friend died well before the inevitable could be welcomed. The highs and lows of letting go.

The water level of my emotions rose along with a sizzling sun as we began our closing critique. A need to depart early to return for a memorial service let me avoid spilling my emotions in a place and way I preferred not to. But the memorial service was another story. Family and friends shared wonderful stories of a man they were reluctantly letting go of, who poured his love into the lives of his family, friends and beloved wife. A choir of nearly forty voices assembled to sing Mike into heaven, and to honor his wife, a long-time member of the choral community. On a beastly hot afternoon, in a standing-room-only sanctuary, after just a few measures of Brahm’s How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place, I let go. And sobbed. And sobbed. Not just for my friend’s overwhelming lost, or for all the little and big losses of a few weeks, but for the necessary long view of time, as time goes by. And the ache and relief…of letting go.

As time goes by, what are some of the things and people you’re letting go of? If you were to create an assemblage from meaningful items, what would you incorporate in your art work? Who and what would be represented? What would you title your piece?

Looking forward to your comments.

PS – Assemblage is a form of sculpture comprised of “found” objects arranged in such a way that they create a piece.

8 comments to Letting Go


    We have lived in this house for over 48 years, and it is full of wonderful memories and things. As the years slide by, we try to part with a few things to our kids, but there is still a lot to do. I’m sure when we are gone they will find more.

    I enjoyed your blog so much. Reunions do bring back memories, and they are usually good memories. Thank you, Lynn.

  • Sometimes I avoid “letting go.” Listening to you speak and share helped energize me to return to more “letting go.” Thank-you. You stirred the pot for some good “life soup.” Love your assemblage. xo Connie

  • Deanna Bowling

    The timing of this piece is so timely in so many ways, more so than I could ever possibly put into words.

    Thank you, Lynne

  • I love how you visually and textually give voice to the seasons of your life Lynne. This was a deeply meaningful post. This autumn to winter season is meditatively peaceful, and if the Lord tarries,the letting-go’s will become more frequent for us. Thank you for sharing with us.

  • Doreen Sorrels

    Excellent, Lynne! You touched a chord.
    It seems that every ten years or so, some sea change comes to my life… uually it is something I never would have guessed. I have always called myself a ‘project person’ and there has always been a project that has consumed me: house renovation, car restoration, boat redemption, projects large and small, not always needlework.

    I’m due again. Looking around for what might be next, I am finding that for the very first time, my projects are people. My musician friends are confronted with cancers and blindness and creeping Alzheimers. My church friends are experiencing unemployment and knee surgery and Parkinson’s disease. I want to be the best posible help, but I do not want to hold so tight that they can’t do what they are called to do without me.

    Keeping and Letting Go becomes a balancing act. And in looking for equilibrium, one discovers what one truly believes about Life and Death, about Spirit and Body and about how tightly the two might be bound together. You are noticing that, too, I think.

  • Helen

    Very timely for me too Lynne x
    My Dad died very suddenly this past week just days after a family party to celebrate my parents Diamond Wedding Anniversary.
    I find my letting go isn’t ready yet
    I am gathering a few things to me to ease the parting

    A few treasured moments from the last 55 years
    The look of his beautiful hands reflected in my own
    A well worn, freshly laundered handkerchief
    A CD filled with some of the hymns he loved
    His very ancient bath robe and big baggy cardigan to wrap around me
    Some beautiful scented soaps that he hadn’t yet had time to use
    The sound of his voice, occasionally calling out across the room, when my mother called me
    My faith and my love of words and worship and music; silent gifts from his life to mine
    And words aplenty as I write of the way it was, of my hope for the way it will be when next we meet, of our last times together at the party, and of all that passed between us as he lay in a coma in the hospital, and the final farewell at the Chapel of Rest

    I feel God is at work weaving all these strands into a lasting remembrance for me but for now I am gathering them to me until I am ready to let them go

    I think they will make an excellent assemblage when that time comes!

  • Deanna Bowling

    Doreen — I know exactly what you are talking about. I am going through the same type of span of life.

  • Nicole

    Thank you Lynne for your beautiful words and for being there for my mom through this huge time of change.

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