Now and then I make fairly hopeless attempts to reduce the ‘stuff’ our kids will need to sort through once I have left this world – objects, photos, and old letters and emails that capture intangible thoughts and ideas, and recall friends. Some say that ‘the present is all we have’, but all our earlier moments have made us who we are; they are evidence of how we came to be.
‘Every moment of a person’s life has a series of consequences extending to eternity.’ Secrets of Heaven 3854
Keepsakes can be both physical and ephemeral. Intangible things are just as real as tangible ones – maybe even more real, from eternity’s viewpoint. ‘You can’t take it with you’ only applies to objects – it doesn’t necessarily apply to what you treasure.
‘Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moss and dust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.’ Matthew 6:19-21
The things we value speak of our very lives. An older relative recently moved into a house nearby, and has enjoyed finding new homes for her many things – it comforts her to have them round her, and to think again of the people and places they remind her of.
I’m a fan of the TV program ‘The Repair Shop’, where a team of crafts people skillfully restore ‘stuff’ that is precious to its owners because in some way it calls to mind precious people in their lives. The radio program ‘Desert Island Discs’ has the guest choosing 8 songs s/he would take along when abandoned on a desert island – music itself is not physical, but it sure does matter to people!
The older I get, the more I appreciate the little things, ‘the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life’ as I read in a poem. I also increasingly value the things of my life recalled by the ‘stuff’ mentioned above – places I’ve been, experiences we’ve had while travelling, the ways I’ve found to contribute to the world, jobs I’ve had which led from this, to that, to retirement a few years ago. What I’ve accumulated triggers recollections of all the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ that led me to acquire the stuff in the first place. Most of it probably won’t mean much to my kids, but some might trigger memories of their own. And it’s hard for me to throw it away….
Postscript: When January’s urban fire ripped through a community in Colorado where my daughter lives, I was sharply reminded that not everyone gets the privilege to sift through their keepsakes. My daughter’s home was unscathed, but for those who lost theirs, there is deep trauma and heartache that may last for years. They probably feel lucky to be alive, even with nothing to their name. I hope one day they can say, ‘This is the day which the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.’ Psalm 118:24