Sadly, I had the experience today of sorting through the belongings of a family member that recently passed away. Keith, my wife’s brother unexpectedly died of a heart failure. This was a surprisingly emotional experience for me. I tried to distract myself by working hard and getting the job done like I usually do. For the most part I did that, however, there were many moments when I had to pause and look carefully through a box or a drawer to make sure that we did not discard anything really important, or something valuable.
As this progressed, I was struck by this very real concept. When you die, you will absolutely take nothing with you. All the little things you keep stored away in a pile here or a pile there will generally have little to no meaning to anyone else. If someone has to clean out your life after you pass away, they are going to keep very little of what you have stored away. I daresay they will keep less that 1% of what you have. You will get to take 0% with you wherever you are going to go. If you believe you are going to the grave, then you might, if you are lucky, get to wear a nice pair of clothes someone finds in your closet. However, if you believe that you are going to an after life experience then you will take nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.
You may think that the box over there in the corner full of little keepsakes, or notes, or whatever is important. Let me tell you this, it is not. The family member that will clean that box out when you die, will take a grand total of about 1 minute looking through it, or less. They will most likely through the entire thing away. Just face it, as uncomfortable as it is, your entire life will end up in 1 or 2 boxes that makes its way into a loves ones attic or storage facility. That loved one will intend to organize that stuff one day into something meaningful, but chances are they will not get to it. That box will then get discarded by the next generation, they will not know what it is. It will be junk to them.
So reality is, the stuff you have is meaningless. So what does have meaning? I will tell you this, Keith did leave behind something really meaningful. He connected with people, told them how he felt about them. He took the time to share with others his thoughts, which in many cases, had an impact on them. He did not achieve greatness and he certainly did not accumulate wealth, but people will remember him for his kindness, his smile, his passion, and his concern for others. That he did take with him, he will be remembered for it. So at the end of the day, he did not get to take the box of old VHS movies with him but he did get to take the moments that he spend with other people. Those will live in the hearts of minds of those who knew for as long as they live, and perhaps longer than that.
Sorry for your loss
My husbands father passed of cancer not too long ago. He was a bit of a hoarder, but in an organized way. His wife was surprisingly willing to rid herself of the ‘collection’. My husband and his brother pitched in to sort, organize, and agree who would take what home with them. We found a lot of Taylor’s writings…some of them letters, some jokes, and some worthy of a bumper sticker. I will say we had a wonderful time around the dining room table reading for ourselves and out loud to the family. He even wrote his own newspaper death announcement, full of his typical humor. Those writings really left an impact and connection with all of us.