The Rotted Banana Peel

The days were dwindling, and the packing wasn’t near complete. As I sat on the hard linoleum floor with my face buried in the cabinet under the kitchen sink, I couldn’t find it. I packed up the miscellaneous junk, that no matter my best efforts, always accumulated under there. While boxing up garbage bags and cleaning supplies, I was also searching for something important. But with my box now full, and not much left besides the plumbing, I was losing hope.

Days before Jackson’s second birthday, he enjoyed snacking on a banana. When he finished, I reminded him to throw away the peel. Excited to do something all by himself, he ran into the kitchen, threw the cabinet door open, and tossed that bright yellow banana peel into no man’s land, missing by a mile. I laughed and certainly didn’t want to deflate his pride in having accomplished something, so I left the peel where it landed, planning to throw it away later. 

But then he died.


When we got the call a few months ago, the news took me by surprise. 

“You got the house,” our realtor said.

Eric and I looked at each other in disbelief. A huge smile swept across his face, and I began sobbing. He was elated; I was devastated. 

We were vying with four other couples for a new home that we both loved. We’d been searching for more than a year with specific parameters that had to be met. I kept telling Eric, “when the right house comes along, we’ll know it.” Well, this one fit the bill almost perfectly, but in the back of my mind, I didn’t think we would be the ones walking away with the keys. Secretly, part of me was hoping we wouldn’t. But we did, and now the reality of leaving the only place Jackson ever called home hit me. And it hit me hard.

Eric couldn’t understand my tears, and for the first couple of days, I couldn’t explain it to him. The liquid heartache raged out of my body. I couldn’t stop, even if I tried. I couldn’t speak about the move or the new house to anyone without my eyes welling up, releasing an ambush of tears. 

This was supposed to be an exciting time in our lives. If you read this post I wrote a couple of years ago, you know that I typically love the new adventure of moving and all of the excitement it brings. But this was different than any move in the past, and my heart was fighting an internal battle.

Joy and happiness for our beautiful new house and the opportunities it will give our family, but I fell into a deep valley, similar to my early days of grieving for Jackson. The pain was all too fresh, the wound re-opened and fresh air stinging my heart. 

This home is so much more than the four walls that surround us and protect us. It’s where our family of three grew to four when we finally brought Jackson home from the hospital. It’s where we watched Kate blossom into an amazing big sister filled with love for her brothers and life. And it’s where Ryder completed our family and filled our hearts with a love we never thought possible again. 

Every square foot of this home whispers memories of an easier time before my heart was tainted with fear and grief. But it also screams at me on a daily basis the terrifying memories of the day Jackson moved to Heaven. The horrifying moment when we shared the news with Kate, and the difficult days and years that followed when sometimes just getting out of bed was an accomplishment.

This home has seen the lives of five people through a journey that is difficult to walk but can also be glorious at times. How do you leave a place where so much of your life has been shared? Where the neighboring people, now dear friends, walked with you through hell and back?

In those early days of grief, I didn’t change anything he touched. The sheets in Jackson’s crib bunched up from his last nap. Toys in the living room remained scattered on the floor. His winter coat draped where he last hung it up. 

I was scared I was going to forget Jackson’s every little nuance. I was terrified the memories would slowly begin to fade away. Leaving everything in place eased my worries, at least in the short term. But now I was saying good-bye to the only place these memories were made. Would I start forgetting? Would they start forgetting?

I left that fading yellow banana peel under my sink six years ago for a reason. Unseen every day, I forgot about it for awhile, but I found it a couple of years later in an effort to organize. Memories of watching Jackson race across the kitchen floor beaming in pride resurfaced, and I decided that now brown, rotted banana peel would continue to sit right under my sink. 

As I emptied the cabinet today, though, the realization became clear. Despite my best efforts, the banana peel was gone.

The flow of tears started all over as I was reminded that new memories can’t be made with Jackson when we move. I won’t be able sit in the rocking chair in his bedroom and reminisce because he doesn’t have a bedroom in the new house, and we were robbed of the chance to make new memories.

Apart from holding my lifeless child for the very last time, knowing I would never see him again in this earthly world, saying goodbye to the only home Jackson knew was the absolute most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do.

On the last morning in our home, I stole a few quiet moments to myself in Jackson’s empty room. I settled into the exact spot he took his last breath. I lay on the floor, my breathing slowed, my mind focused. As I inhaled, I could smell Jackson near. His distinct scent permeated my senses, letting me know he was by my side. I thought packing up all of this belongings was hard, but that only put a dent in my heart compared to this moment. As I walked down the stairs weeping, struggling to leave the house for the final time, I whispered to Eric, “I can’t do this.”

He grabbed my hand, gathered the four of us together, and prayed. He thanked God for ten amazing years in our home, protection in the next phase of our lives, and that God and Jackson continue to watch over and be with us. We ended with an “Amen” and Team Reese cheer, which left us all giggling and smiling.

I desperately needed Eric’s words in that moment. The simple reminder that we can’t do this alone, and we don’t have to. We have each other, but more importantly, we have God at the center of it all. He hasn’t left us these last six years; he certainly isn’t going to leave us now. 

With tears in our eyes, the four of us said good-bye and closed the door on this chapter of our lives. We stepped out of our old life and into a new adventure – together. We aren’t taking a banana peel with us, but we are taking our memories and holding them close. We’re moving forward with our lives but never moving on because Jackson will always be by our side.

Giving Jackson’s tree a little bit of love before we leave.
Photo: Mel Andrews Photography

“Grief is a multi-tasking emotion. That you can and will be sad, and happy, you’ll be grieving, and able to love in the same year or week or breath.” – Nora McInerny