4 - One Man's trash was our life's treasures

June 11, 2021

One man’s trash was our life’s treasurers

We have all undertaken a ‘Spring clean’ at some stage of our life. That time when the dreaded declutter has to take place. It doesn’t matter how old we are, even young children have to cleanout their rooms sometimes, especially if one is packing to move to a new home. Examining each item, asking the question “will I keep this or not? Does it serve a purpose? Will I ever need it?” each of those questions when asked offers us a choice. The ability to determine if we still want to hang onto that possession or whether its usefulness has expired. We make the choice whilst remembering any good times associated with that possession but it is our choice and we are accepting of that. Grief may come into the equation if we have loved the possession but it is now broken, or no longer of any use or no longer fits us, or because there are many precious memories attached to that item. There will be grief but it is minimal and we can live with that. Some of us may have a garage sale and recoup some of the cost of the purchase of the item. Others may be philanthropic and donate working items to a charity for their fundraising and to ensure that someone else gets use of that item, maybe even coming to love it too, as we did, either way there is a win for self and maybe others. But what happens when there is no win. When there is really no choice based on need for item or usefulness but rather you are faced with having to document what will be disposed of because it cannot be remediated or there is no guarantee it will be safe to use after an attempt to remediate it, or you can’t afford the cost of remediation and it is cheaper to simply destroy it?

The answer is gut wrenching grief that tears at the soul and shatters the heart into a million pieces and you wonder if your heart will ever heal again. Whilst some are merely possessions and cause minimal pain to dispose of them, some are very precious, like the woodwork project your son did that you have carried and treasured for thirty five years, something that can never be replaced, and something that you can’t just go out and buy a new one to replace it, or the tiny teddy bear your husband, the love of your life, gave you when you first met. The plate your deceased son painted at age 4 for his mummy or the apron with your grandson's hand print on it from kindergarten.

This was what faced my husband and I in the days up to having to have our possessions removed from the contaminated property we had been renting. The cost of testing and cleaning(when there was no guarantee anything could really be cleaned or safe to use again) was just mind boggling. There was research available that demonstrated that certain types of furnishings would absorb more than others and that some could be remediated, maybe, possibly, to a safe level but then the question remains “what is a safe level?” No-one really knows because more research is desperately needed but no government will fund it of course because most don’t want to really know the answer. Most of them are afraid of the answer so prefer to bury their heads in the sand and hope by some miracle people will not notice being poisoned.

We had been told “you haven’t proven your possessions are contaminated” and so were given a few weeks, over aster, to get our things out of the property. We could only get a few things tested due to the costs involved and we knew this would take time to process, time we didn’t have. So faced with having to make a decision, given insufficient time to obtain preliminary testing results of a few items before we had to have our possessions removed from the property, we had to make a decision that week. Photos had been taken of everything we could find in the house and with AMI’s help a spreadsheet had been created with a detailed assessment of price to replace each item (by the way make sure you keep ALL dockets when you buy something AND take photos to prove you have it). I spent most of the days doing this in a complete state of despair. Tears flowed when my husband was not around because I knew he was just as upset as I was, so each of us tried to keep our composure so as not to add to the other’s distress.

The saddest thing was that these items would be smashed and destroyed, at least that is what the company we were finally engaging to help us had agreed to do. They would come and take them away and dispose of them correctly, they didn’t, but that is for another story, ‘the good, the bad and the downright ugly when it comes to Meth testing and remediation', a story you REALLY need to read.

Gone was the retro dining table and chairs we found just by chance after searching for years for a really nice one. Gone was the fake wedding cake I made out of hat boxes last year because of COVID and the fact that when we got married you could not have a real wedding cake. Hours of work and love had gone into making that but it could not be salvaged. The fridge that we had only had for a couple of years and we still hadn’t finished paying off had to go, the food we had stored away in case of another lockdown,  the pencil case my son, who died aged 20, had made as a young teenager all had to go. Knowing that as retirees we would not be able to afford very much I had bought up at the sales when I was working, clothes to last us a few years, all now contaminated. The sailing ship my dad carved sixty years ago and my mum made the sails for now at risk. The brand new mattress and doona and doona cover all to be disposed of. The list goes on and on. The sudden, heart wrenching shock as you realise “oh no, no, not that as well” when you spot a much treasured item is in one of the photos.

What will never leave my memory is the sound of those possessions being smashed and thrown into a trailer. Possessions once cared for, wrapped carefully for the move into this unit now treated with no love or care at all. To those people doing this clean out our things are nothing more than rubbish, worthless rubbish, but to us many of them were very, very precious.

Yes it is gut wrenching, truly gut wrenching and what makes it worse is dealing with the callousness of those who do not care, who have no compassion or empathy or conscience. Those who should be aware and acting to protect innocent people, those who should be regulating to stop this but are instead avoiding the fact that they have a very, very big problem coming like a tsunami in their direction.

Yes its gut wrenching and heart breaking but what you also discover is the love that some people will shower you with, the help they will give to assist you overcome the pain, the care they will take to be loving, responsible adults. You find within yourself a resilience and a strength and courage that you never thought was there. With nothing left to lose you turn and face the bullies, those wielding the power and you say “enough”. You find your voice and you speak out to warn, to protect, to alert and to demand change.

Then you tell your heart that you have the photos, the memories and they can’t take that away, you have each other and the callousness of those who now treat you as the criminal in order to defend their own lack of conscience and inadequacy has only served to make the bond between you and your loved ones stronger and you tell your heart that it will heal one day but for now somehow that time, one day, seems a long, long way off.

 

Yvonne Lacey OAM

Next – 5 - The Good, the Bad and the downright Ugly when it comes to Meth testing and remediation.

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