A broken “I Like Ike” pin; two white shirt buttons, still in their clear baggie; a tiny, yellowed newspaper clipping about a house for sale in a town never visited; a ticket stub from a high school basketball game from years ago -reminders of a special time, a special person, a special place.
A lifetime of memories gathered and collected, clipped and saved, stored and safeguarded – important only to the possessor. When examined by a stranger, all thought to be useless and unimportant, silly and trivial.
The death of a loved one brings with it many tasks, not the least of which is to go through their belongings. It is a very personal and private experience. I find myself smiling and shaking my head at some of the things I find, and then crying over others.
Yes, it is sad. But I choose to look at it as an honor – a glimpse into the heart of that person we saw every day, but perhaps never really knew.
“Who would save this?” we ask. “Why would anyone keep that?”
And yet, each piece holds such significance for its owner. I think of my “stuff.” I imagine my family members or friends going through my drawers (and I shiver) and finding:
One die (you never know when a child may need this in a game.)
An old, tattered scorecard from a miniature golf course in Ocean City (our first date)
A broken watch (my grandmother’s)
A bracelet made of soda can tabs and ribbon (a gift from a thoughtful 10-year-old daughter who knows I love my diet coke)
I imagine the looks my “stuff” would get. “Doesn’t she throw anything away?”
I think about it. Once a year or so, I get the “urge to purge” and I grab a big green trash bag and head to my room. And I have such resolve – this time I will clean out my drawers.
Then I start going through my stuff. And I start remembering. And a few hours later, I wander back downstairs, bag half full with only those treasurers I can bear to part with – the odd earring from college (I guess I won’t find the other); the ribbon from my high school prom (faded and torn – I never did like that guy); a few dried up nail polish bottles (I guess you really should keep them in the fridge).
And so it goes. Sorry guys, my stuff is staying. I am keeping it - for me, and for you. I need it to remember a time long gone, but not forgotten. And you need it to know who I was.
I’ve realized that our stuff tells a story: He loved sports, hated waste and was a newspaper enthusiast.
I hope my stuff tells the story of my life: She had a good sense of humor; was always prepared; and loved her family very much.
And really, what more is there?