“As a child she had experienced deep deprivation as a refugee fleeing from Russian forces during World War II.” This statement is part of the biographical information Sarah B. Weir gives in her blog post, German Grandmother Lives Money-free and Has Never Been Happier on a woman who went to extremes to create for herself a life free of all material belongings.
I closely know a German grandmother who during a significant part of her childhood “experienced deep deprivation as a refugee fleeing from Russian forces during World War II.” She had become a member of my family through marriage about fifty years ago. In stark contrast to the grandmother of the news, she lives the other extreme. She is a sufferer of hoarding.
Why is this fact my concern?
About thirteen years ago, G (as I will call her throughout my post out of respect for her privacy) had a daughter: She was stricken with cancer. She, her husband and her newborn had just arrived from the States. With no place to stay until they could find a house for themselves. G had her own place. She still has it. Two bedrooms. Two full bathrooms. A very large living room. A separate room for dining. Full-size kitchen. Two balconies. Every livable space was covered from the floor up to the ceiling with boxes from her move to that place at least ten years prior. G had to maneuver around “things” to access her bed every single night. There was a tiny spot open for G’s grandchild whom her daughter had to leave with her for her surgery and during her chemotherapy sessions, since her husband had to work to meet their and their baby’s living needs.
G’s home was far beyond being sufficient for the three when they could be all together. The in-laws accepted the young couple to their private multi-level home, giving them a small space in their basement that was unusually cold even in the summer.
Before that year came to an end, G’s daughter had died. G’s “home”? It lives on as an undisturbed hoarding stage.
G has other adult children. One of them has taken the consequences of her hoarding so much to the heart that their communication suffered to the point of a halt. Not that the second one has ever been able to reach a point where to come to terms with G’s problem.
Barely a month ago, G’s husband was stricken with a third type of cancer. His worst ever. Surgery was successful, as his doctors had claimed. After his discharge, however – also per his physicians instructions, great care needed to be given to him. At G’s “home”. Naturally.
Like her daughter, her husband, too, is suffering from the impossibility of their living circumstances. From G’s self-inflicted paralysis that prevents them both from living.
Yet, that “home” will most likely survive all G’s loved ones, maybe even herself, as one undisturbed hoarding stage.
Again: Why is this fact my concern?
G’s daughter was an exceptional human being. She didn’t deserve to face any dilemma regarding her living conditions while facing death. G’s husband is also a most remarkable individual. He kept silent at the death of their daughter. And that privacy in his own internal pain is how I have known him throughout my life when we both suffered many early losses of very dear ones to death. Yet, the last time we spoke on the phone, he was at the end of his wit due to his post-surgery environment and hung up fast just when he started crying.