Ninety five years

203 words. 2 minutes to read.

Before grandma died, she moved into a partial care home.

I’ll never forget the room she lived in for her last few days. She had a few favourite books, a painting, a sculpture she’d made in clay. There were some handmade textiles, and some photos, mostly of family members.

Nothing much else.

The room had a small wardrobe, enough for maybe ten or fifteen dresses and a couple of coats. She also had a small bedside chest, presumably for her underwear. Her shoes – five pair – were lined up neatly beneath her bed.

This was the sum of the belongings of a woman over ninety. She was an educated woman with an amazing mind and a wonderful humour about her who added value to the lives of everyone she knew.

Even now, fifteen years after her death, so many people remember her.

I don’t know what happened to her belongings. Presumably they were shared out among family members, or given away.

I do know that she gave me memories that made me a richer, better person.

Why I’m talking about this? Because her life – and her end – is a lesson to me. She taught me – and keeps on teaching me – that it’s not the stuff we leave behind that matters.

what we leave behind

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The meaning of life…

270 words, 2 minutes to read.

When I was a teenager, I helped my boyfriend clear out his grandmother’s house after she died.

She was a hoarder. It took twenty of us six weekends to do the job.

At first, the family members and I trod carefully. Everything we picked up was debated, questioned, argued over.

There were cupboards full of china knick-knacks (could be precious!), and shoe boxes stuffed full of stamps still stuck to torn-open envelopes (could be valuable!).

There were suitcases of unlabelled photographs that nobody could identify and – I remember quite clearly – a huge pickle jar full of baby teeth from the seven children and numerous grandchildren she’d cared for over her life.

There were clothes from the forties, fifties, sixties and beyond, all gradually falling into disrepair. All a feast for moths now, all shabby, stained, and musty. Three garden sheds and a double garage full of tools, wires, plugs that didn’t fit anything. Oddments of twisted wire and bent nails.

At first the twenty of us trod carefully. But soon we grew tired. Soon the treasures just became junk.

Leftovers of a life that had gone.

In the end, the family members took very few items. I was offered items, but I took nothing. I felt overwhelmed and exhausted.

The rest of the belongings were either given to charity or sent to landfill.

We all took a deep, thankful communal breath when the job was finally done.

The lesson I learned from those weekends sorting through a dead woman’s life?

It still lives with me, thirty years later:

That stuff we buy in shops? It’s all just junk in the end. Life is more important than that.

Don’t waste your life on stuff.
Don’t let your possessions become a burden, for yourself or those you love.

Your stuff will never love you back.

Stuff is just junk in the end

That stuff we buy in shops? It’s all just junk in the end. Life is more important than that.