Between the two of us, Geordie and I have a lot of stuff. We’re not entirely sure how this happened. I’m not just talking about the furniture (which is mine, for the most part, if individual ownership is something that needs to be accounted for) – there are the books and the clothes and all the little odds and ends that have accumulated over time without us noticing. We’ve been doing a lot of purging, trying to decide what should go with us and what should just be left for good.

The hardest part has been deciding what to do with Lauren’s things. After everything that went into planning for her, it’s hard to just get rid of what we’ve come to think of as hers. But it’s nearly impossible to keep everything, not just because of the logistics of getting it back to the States but because it hurts so much to see her things and know that she will never have the chance to use them. Every time I looked into her room and saw that empty crib, I felt myself falling into pieces again. And were we to use them sometime in the future, those would be the thoughts in my mind: These belonged to Lauren. She was supposed to use them. It wouldn’t be right to use her things with another child; nor would it be fair to that child, who deserves to have things of his/her own, not leftovers from Lauren.

We’re keeping Lauren’s clothes and bedding to make into a memorial quilt. It’s unfathomable to consider saving the clothing for a future child, but at the same time, I couldn’t bear to give them away or – heaven forbid – to throw them away. Losing those items would be like losing a piece of Lauren herself; picking them out was the same as accepting her into our lives and acknowledging our transformation into parents. With each piece we chose, we were shaping her in our minds, feeling her out, and coming to understand how she would change us and every day after she arrived. Making a memorial quilt just feels right, as nothing else would have,

More difficult was figuring out what to do with the furniture and the various items used to complete the nursery – the baby gym, the diaper pail, the accessories for the dresser. These things were all brand-new, but even so, we wondered how easy it would be to donate them somewhere or even just simply give them away. In the States, it’s fairly easy to donate items to charity or a thrift store; in Japan, you might have an easy time of it in a large city, but recycle shops are hard to find in small, country towns. Also, because we don’t have a car, we’re not able to offer to drop stuff off, making it just that much harder to find someone to take things. A friend of Geordie’s suggested he contact the Susono city hall and find out if they were willing to take large-item donations. Fortunately, they were, but only the new things, so we’re still left with the IKEA furniture I bought back when I moved to Moriya. But that’s a few less items to worry about.

Watching them take away Lauren’s things was more difficult than I expected. I still thought of them as her things, and I’ll probably continue to do so for a long time to come. These are things Geordie and I bought for her together, a bonding experience not just between ourselves but with Lauren. In picking out these items, we made a place for her, mentally as well as physically. While it’s a comfort to know that a family will have use for them, I still want them for Lauren. Letting go of them was like letting go of her again, a terrible reminder that she’s gone. Seeing the room empty of her things breaks my heart; she came and went and left nothing behind her in the room that should have been hers. All that’s left is an emptiness. As much as it hurts to see her belongings go unused, it hurts just as much to lose what was hers, to let them pass through our lives and into someone else’s as though Lauren had never existed at all. While they were in her room, it proved she had been real and not just a dream that we’ve lost to the ether.

What matters is that we still have Lauren. We moved her out of the room too. Before, her urn had been sitting on the wide IKEA bookcase in the room, under the baby gym and between two stuffed animals we’d had for her. Geordie often put Rabbit with her to keep her company. Now it’s too lonely in there, too bereft of Lauren’s memory. Now she sits on a bookcase in our bedroom, still accompanied by Rabbit. It’s a little lonelier without her things surrounding her, but she’s not alone, which is good. It won’t be long before we’re back in the States and we can make a temporary place for her at my parents’ house. And next year, after we’ve settled ourselves a bit, perhaps we can make a more permanent place for her, a place of her own and with her own things. Although it’s enough to have Lauren with us, I feel better knowing she’s got her things with her and place just for her. It’s the way things would have been if she had lived, and it’s the way I want things for her now.