Feeling great about navigating through the impossible conversation, sister and I began the process of sorting through Dad’s stuff in the house on the mountain at the lake. My heart ached realizing that all of his years of living were reduced to stuff on shelves, in closets, drawers and boxes. My dread was renewed at the sheer volume of stuff. Dad never threw anything away.
I am not sure what compelled him to hang on to everything, and I mean everything. Like the American Kennel Club registration papers for the dog we had when I was a child, our sweet family dog who died when I was 13. Or the auto insurance policies to the Dodge station wagon (yes, the large green “Brady Bunch” wagon with the wood panel down the side) from 1972 through 1977. There were things like his childhood stuffed bear to every letter, birthday card and father’s day card I had ever sent him.
We also knew there were boxes in the over-stuffed storage area underneath the house labeled “Give Away” which had been carefully sorted and packed by sister years ago during the packing process to move to this house. He never looked through it to see if he agreed with her assessment to give it away, he just moved it thinking he would sort it later.
Knowing dad there were a combination of things that prevented him from sorting through his stuff. He certainly procrastinated doing anything tedious or unpleasant, like many of us. I also think he deep down thought he might need some of it one day, or it was sentimental, or he just didn’t want to let go.
There were also many sentimental things to us around the house. Furniture we grew up with, family pictures, books that were read to us as children, things we treasured. As we started going through some of them trying to decide what to do the thoughts started creeping in… “I have to be sure I get that picture, I want that piece of furniture, or I should get that item because I am the oldest or it meant more to me.”
It flooded my mind with the most horrific memories of sorting through my grandmother’s things after she passed away a couple of years prior. It was a greed fest where resentment brooded and family pitted against each other over “stuff”, albeit stuff my grandmother treasured but she couldn’t take it with her. I swore I would never watch or engage in that again.
I quickly prayed for the Spirit to take those memories and my thoughts of greed captive and send them away. In that moment this parable came to mind…
Then he (Jesus) said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.’ And I’ll say to myself ‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich towards God.” Luke 12:15-21
I felt peace for a split second having determined that I would not go down the path of coveting stuff. But in the very next moment, looking at his things, experiencing the joy and sadness in remembering all of him, the good and the ugly, I recognized that someday husband and/or kids will be looking through my stuff determining what of my treasures to keep, covet, give away or toss.
It has inspired me to rethink my treasures and the things I have not been willing to let go. To set my family up for success in the middle of what will be a difficult time. I am taking the steps to sort through my own stuff, to determine the things of importance, to talk about what the kids may want, to make the determinations to help them ward off coveting and to not to have to make the decisions that can cause grief during grief.
To teach them God’s message to us about what we treasure…
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matt 6:19-21
It all boils down to legacy and I want mine to be the messages of Jesus instilled in my kids and through ministry because my treasure is the Lord, period.
What treasures are you holding on to? Where is your heart?