It had to start some time. I had been putting it off for weeks, but the shelves kept staring at me and pleading “What about us?”, “Pick me as your prized possession”. Finally I have had to start the sad, demanding and time-consuming job of packing, which also means the emotional task of discarding. After at least a dozen moves in my 35 years of priesthood, I should have it down to a fine art, but it seems that I have become a bit sentimental in my middle (to upper- middle) age. If it helps at all, I have devised a little list of dos and don’ts for those of you yet to face the daunting task of “culling” several years of luggage/baggage down to the vital attachments for the next part of the journey. While not an exhaustive list, it might just make the job a little easier.

Lesson 1. No article of clothing from school (primary or secondary) should still be in a middle-aged adult’s cupboard. That sweater your mum knitted you for grade 6 just must now be discarded, along with the Hawaiian- print shirt that looked so cool on your 18th birthday. Sad as it is to admit, the bell-bottomed jean will never return, at least not with my waistline. Out they go, along with studded belts, safari suits, white shoes and body shirts.

Lesson 2. Never go through the photo albums (do they still exist in this digital age?) unless you are in the company of a ruthless and unfeeling responsible adult, who will shake you back into reality, as you spend hours trying to recall where you were, and who took that photo of you and some anonymous sightseers back in 1976 when you toured Rotorua for the first time.

Lesson 3. Dust-catchers” are named thus for a good reason. That is all they do. The only joy they can bring has already been used up by the person who bought it for you in the first place. No matter how much may have been spent on it, a signed football jersey from a now defunct rural football team of 1982 can longer be called “a must have”, but rather “a must go”. Along with the cigarette lighter

that was used to light your last dumper in 1988, and your ‘best and fairest’ trophy for a sport that is no longer played in civilised societies. I hope the lucky inheritor at the Rosewood Cent Auction will get at least some of the joy that I had when these curios first came my way.

Lesson 4. Seriously, ask yourself, just how many books can one mildly intelligent human read (and promise to re-read) in a normal lifetime? Unless you intend giving yourself a serious hernia from lifting, then you have to be ruthless and cold. Somehow the comfort, feel and smell of pages from ‘my very best favourite’ book cannot be applied to every best seller purchased over 30 years. A simple hug and a small tear is all that is required before relegation to the Hospice bookshop. Let your joy become some else’s.

Finally it will occur to you that the things we really need are already packed somewhere in that vast storage case called- your memory. For me the innocent words of children at Mass (“do you go to God’s house for Christmas dinner?”), the joyful choir at the Remembrance liturgy and the faces of the newly-initiated at the Easter Vigil, the emotion filled thank-you card from a thoughtful widow after her husband’s funeral, or the groom melting with perspiration as his bride takes an inordinate amount of time to walk down the Saint Mary’s aisle. They are all safely packed away where no dust can get at them and they can be found at will. As for the rest, if the boxes get lost in transit, will anything of real value be lost?

Fr. Peter Dillon