Most of us have experienced the eerie feeling that goes with handling the personal possessions of a loved one who has passed away. Some very mundane things can produce surprisingly poignant reactions.

Such was the case when our son passed away at age 22 from complications of cerebral palsy and epilepsy. Graham’s mom and I knew we might be carrying sentimentalism to the extreme, but many of the things that our son left behind became nothing short of sacred to us. 

Sorting through Graham’s dresser one day I teared up at the sight of his hairbrush! The little wooden stick with its crooked yellow bristles was suddenly sacred because it had groomed his satiny hair. A crinkled tube of Tom’s Silly Strawberry toothpaste and his Royal Mandarin cologne were suddenly precious artifacts; the scents from those toiletries evoked Graham in the deepest parts of my brain.  

Clothes, we discovered, were uniquely sacred because...

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About the Author

photo of Dr. Steven Gardner and his sonDr. Steven Gardner is an internist at Massachusetts General Hospital, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and past Medical Director of the Massachusetts Special Olympics. He is a past winner of the Harvard Medical School Humanism in Medicine Award. Steven is a prominent photographer whose images focus on the resilience of people facing adversity and the compassion of caregivers. His work has been exhibited in Boston and Martha’s Vineyard, where he is a volunteer physician at Camp Jabberwocky, the location and inspiration for many of the stories in his book, Jabberwocky: Lessons of Love from a Boy Who Never Spoke.

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