The past couple months have been difficult, as my grandma, - (my last living grandparent) died of cancer. It has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride of emotions.
Grateful for an end to her suffering, - devastated to realize she’s really gone. –
Grateful that I’ll get to see her again in heaven, heartbroken I’ll not see her here again.
Grateful for so many good memories I have,- sad that her harsh words and stubborn attitude means that some in my family don’t have the good memories I do.
Grateful that my son knew and loved her, - sad my daughter never will.
One of the biggest practical challenges for my parents has just been going through her house, the place she and grandpa built over 30 years ago, and had filled – or packed to an amazing degree. She had saved things from her mother’s house, her grandparents, - her first marriage, her second marriage, - her second husband’s first marriage (he a widower, she a divorcee then widow) – there were 5 households of family heirlooms, - sentimental items, and just plain stuff in a small ranch house with a basement full!!!!
Stuff is just stuff, right? I was raised very much to value people over things. As a wife and Mom, it is somewhat irritating to know I spend much of my day cleaning, picking up, organizing and re-arranging, loosing, finding, packing, carrying into and out of places, buying, throwing away, washing, looking for, sorting and putting away STUFF. - The physical and tangible world in which we live. While all of us do need stuff to live, - some people’s stuff is their life. In many ways my grandma’s world revolved around her stuff.
It was a running joke in my family that the entire town could eat for months from her ever growing hoard of food in the basement. – If she ran out of freezer room for things she saw ‘on sale’ – she just bought another freezer. I think the oldest canned item my parents found was from 1970-something! J
I went up a few times to try and help sort and go through things in her house.- A job that made me laugh, and cry, - and realize in terror that I might have inherited her sentimental and hoarding genes to a greater degree than I thought! It seemed so ridiculous at times- how could an ugly set of dishes be hard to throw away?
As grandma would have said with a smirk ‘Well, honey, - you got it honest.” (meaning in the genes)
Even though I tried to be selective in what I choose to take, once we got home after the last weekend there, - I felt a bit overwhelmed.
– What was I doing with all this stuff? I was already feeling that I needed to de-clutter more, - and some of it was almost laughable. - A chintzy tiny mirror with a catchy saying on it, which I would never in a million years want- except that it had sat on the window sill above her sink for as long as I could remember. The sink where I helped wash dishes after every holiday meal, every weekend visit – or just filled a glass of water if I just stopped by…. Just seeing put me back in her house- with her.
When we were going through her house, I saw THE wooden truck, about the size of a Kleenex box that had been there as long as I could remember.
For many years it was the one and only token toy she kept in the house for any grandchildren who came to visit. (Since at one point she and Mom had gotten into arguments about a few objectionable toys she had tried to encourage, she decided she just wouldn’t have any. )
I could remember pushing it around her living room as a child, - and when Justice was born, and we started staying with her whenever we visited Mom and Dad, as he grew older it was the first thing he would ask about. “Gigi, - can I get the truck?” She would sit on the floor, and push it back and forth with him as we caught up visiting.
So when I saw this truck in her house I assumed it would be a hot item. Surprisingly it wasn’t, - so I asked if I could take it home. When we did get home, as soon as Justice saw it he got very excited.
‘OH MOM!! THANKS for getting this!! I love this truck!- Can I go play with it?” And he proceeded to take it in the living room where he played with it for almost half an hour, - loading it with people, and animals, and making sound effects. At one point I came in the room and he said something quite profound, - that exactly described my own feelings as I unpacked boxes with dishes and knick-knacks.
“Mom, - when I play with this truck, - it seems hard to believe that Gigi is dead. – It just seems like she’s at her house and I can just go and play truck with her. It just makes me feel like she’s alive .”
I stared at him with teary eyes as he continued to load his truck with animals, and felt completely affirmed. Stuff is just stuff. Looking at things objectively a person might laugh at the things that were on one hand giving me a thrill of joy, and a pang of sorrow just to look at. Just stuff. –
But the memories attached are very real. And our sense of sight, - or smell, - or hearing a certain sound, can bring back memories like a flood, and in a very real way bring back the ‘presence’ of a loved one to mind and heart.
Have you ever smelled something and ‘whoosh’ your back to place and time? – Or heard something – a sound, or phrase, - or a song that brought back feelings or a memory you hadn’t thought of in years?
I think this is how God designed us! To be able to be blessed not just with mental memories, but a physical connection to them.
– I think it powerful that he gave us a very physical act to repeat (breaking the bread, and drinking the cup) as something to ‘REMEMBER’ him by. – ‘When you do this, - remember me”. Isn’t this part of worship? Involving our senses, - eat, - drink, - singing, kneeling, bowing our heads and hearts - Bringing back the feelings,- the awareness, and the memories of who God is and what God has done for us? -
Some of the things I brought home I know someday I’ll probably throw away. After a while, my heart will be ready to let the ‘stuff’ go, -while keeping the memory. Some things I want to keep, and pass down to my own children someday, complete with it’s story of origin.
Until then, - I am ok with the ‘things’ that are ‘just stuff’ that I have put out around my home. – They bring back memories, - good ones. There is a chintzy tiny mirror above my sink that makes me smile.
I am also freshly motivated to choose quality things in life when possible that have value and meaning; from activities and pastimes, to art and home décor, to the way I speak, so that the things that someday trigger memories of me will bless others and bring Glory to God.
What about you? What helps you keep a balance? What is a trigger for you of a favorite childhood memory, or memory of someone you love?