The death of my grandmother one year ago was quite the shaking experience. We had lost my grandfather two years prior, so it was finished – the entire generation above my parents was no more.
This also meant we had to clean out her house. As we went through drawers, cabinets, and boxes, we kept quoting her…”Dump it! Dump it all!”
You see, Mamaw was the absolute definition of buyer’s remorse. She would decide her house was too cluttered and would threaten to all of us, “I’m gonna dump it. Dump it all!” We envisioned her hauling boxes of treasured family heirlooms out to the street and we all protested and demanded she not ‘dump’ anything.
When the day came that we were preparing her house, the realization settled on all of us that it really was necessary to “dump” most of the stuff she owned. We began making piles of things we wanted. But the things we wanted to keep were not the expensive decorations or even the functional items.
My Dad wanted the rusted flour sifter he had used as a child to sift dirt and sand. (Wonder if she knew?)
My Aunt wanted her Bible.
Mom claimed the milk-glass casserole dish that she used every year to make cherry jello. (She pronounced it cheery and always left the pineapple out.)
I got the notebook, falling apart and barely held together, that held the recipes she treasured for family get-togethers.
But the gold painted wooden plaques that had hung in her house since I can remember? I couldn’t bear the thought of throwing them away, but what to do with them? Build a shrine? Put them in the attic to gather dust? No. Into the trash they went, along with countless other items that reminded us of her. The bath powder that still smelled like her in the ceramic jar with seashells on it? What could be done with it? Into the trash it went.
So trinket after trinket, thing after thing, we took these items that were a part of her existence and finally dumped them. As the dust settled and we looked at our small piles of things we were taking, the realization settled on me – this was all that was left of her life. Everything she bought, everything she carefully considered and saved up for, every piece of art she had decided to hang on her wall – all of it was gone.
It brought me to a sobering realization. Everything I buy, everything I treasure in this life will someday wind up in the trash. Everything. [pullquote]Everything I buy, everything I treasure in this life will someday wind up in the trash. Everything. [/pullquote]Even if it is a treasured heirloom, after a generation or so, nobody will care about it. And the most expensive things I buy are outdated so quickly.
We carry so much with us in this life – we stuff our homes until they are bursting, then we carry half of it up to the attic and stuff it some more. We are weighed down by stuff all the time. So, since last year, I have decided to live more simply. I am tired of spending money on things that will be outdated in a year…or a month. How can we justify such things? It’s one thing to buy things – but what are we investing in?
My grandmother spent her last days with a beaming smile on her face speaking of heaven. Singing hymns from her childhood. “Tell my class to stop praying for me!” she confided to my aunt. “I’m ready to see Jesus!” She lived her last days in giddy anticipation of what she had waited her whole life for – to finally see the face of Jesus.
What I have left of my grandmother is not the stuff she left to or for me, but the wisdom she shared with me, the love she freely gave, and the way I always knew I was special because she told me so. “I never thought I would have a missionary in my family,” she told me. “That’s a great honor!”
One year ago I was challenged to realize that the “stuff” that I want and that I buy ties me to this earth. It takes my eyes off of eternity. It robs me of resources I could use to help others. It makes it difficult to be transient which, in what I do, is necessary to fulfill God’s call on my life. And it makes me forget how temporary this life is.
Keep our eyes on eternity…