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My dad had impeccable style. After he died, I started wearing his clothes to remember him.

Lola Méndez   

My dad had impeccable style. After he died, I started wearing his clothes to remember him.
  • My dad had an impeccable sense of style.
  • After he died, I went through his stuff and kept some clothes for myself.

Tangible items prove that our loved ones existed. Clothing is deeply personal. An item of clothing tells a story of our dearly departed, from the robes they wore as they enjoyed coffee to the jewelry they splurged on to celebrate a milestone.

It's common to preserve our loved ones through their clothing or accessories. "Wanting to wear the clothes of someone who passed is a way to stay close to them, stay attached, as well as honor the person," Gina Moffa, grief therapist and author of "Moving On Doesn't Mean Letting Go," told Business Insider.

My Uruguayan father was impeccably stylish. He prided himself on his appearance and was thoughtful about putting together ensembles. I never saw him miss a chance to catch his reflection and smirk as he declared that he looked good.

He died almost 2 years ago

Despite spending the last year of his life in a nursing home due to various comorbidities, he was conscious of his style. For his last Christmas, he asked for a tropical shirt with palm leaves, a print we both love. Uruguay isn't a tropical destination, and I went to dozens of stores before I found one. I gave it to him while wearing a dress with a palm pattern. He was tickled that we matched.

On his final birthday, he asked to wear his Uruguayan boina, an oversized beret typically worn by gauchos. As he adjusted it, that classic smirk lit up his face. It was his 75th birthday, and I gave him an azure-hued Egyptian cotton scarf I bought for him in Luxor, Egypt. It was the last gift I ever gave him.

Five months later, he died of COVID-19. At some point in the weeks we stayed by his bedside watching his demise, my mother removed his wedding band and her own, giving hers to me and his to my sister. I've worn the thin gold band ever since. Moffa also wears her mother's wedding band, which she says is her good luck charm. "Twisting it on my finger makes me feel close to her, which can bring comfort," she told BI.

I kept some of his clothes

Ritualistically, after a loved one dies, people go through their wardrobe to see what can be donated. My father's clothes were as familiar to me as my own. As I sorted his clothes with my mom and sister, we selected items to keep. My sister kept a denim jacket and my mother his boina. We each took a T-shirt with the logo from his bicycle shop, and we chose one for his cremation.

I kept several shirts. Because he wore them at the nursing home, his name is written on the collar. His name touches the nape of my neck, where he'd often rest his hand as we walked together. In the pocket of his denim button-up, I found a receipt for the bus fare for our last family trip together. I can't throw it away.

After my father's death, I went to Iguazu Waterfalls, a place he had always dreamed of showing me. On both days, I entered the park wearing one of his button-up shirts. My father was a foot taller than me, and wearing his clothes makes me feel protected, as if he's hugging me.

My father left me his most prized possession — a Rolex watch that he won in a bet during his treacherous passage from Uruguay to Mexico in the 70s when he escaped the military dictatorship after being tortured. He'd often sell it and steal it to get money to survive.

Grief and nostalgia often go hand in hand. I often see the pair of Keen sandals he wore, and every time, I'm hit by a wave of grief. It's illogical, but I'll wonder, for instance, if his shoes are outside because he's inside waiting for me.