Stuff. I have a lot of it, more than I thought I did. In fact, in the past couple of years I have spent time going through things I stored in my barn out back, in closets, in nooks and crannies in my garage, and in the past decade I put a few things into my old bedroom at my parent’s house. After all, they wouldn’t mind, right? Things have been donated or tossed into the Dumpster, and I can’t say that it was easy. But I did it.
And I felt lighter. For awhile.
Then reflective. Then a little bit sad.
What about Aunt Mary’s old plates? And cups? Did I really need to donate them? Photo albums (many pictures, but not all) are one keepsake I can’t part with, but where does saving something start, and end? What about the little Eiffel Tower that sat in my kitchen window since 2010? We got it on a trip many years ago, but sometimes seeing this keepsake made me feel less than peaceful, so was it really worth keeping it out? What if I regretted getting rid of it? Stuff, stuff, stuff!!! It gnawed at me, like a dog eating a meaty-bone. It kind of hurt. Stuff is just…stuff. Out went the Eiffel Tower.
That said, I guess part of me is squirrel-like. What I mean is that I like storing or keeping some things. It’s human nature, I think, but it can sometimes get to be too much. I remember, years ago, buying a pair of fashionable boots. I absolutely loved them. In fact, they were so beautiful that I couldn’t bring myself to wear them except maybe once or twice in ten years. They were kept in their original box, even though they were in my closet, neatly placed. They were special.
One winter’s day, I decided I should start wearing them. I got on my knees, dug through my organized shoe boxes and pulled out the boots. Opening the box, I was met with a gloomy realization.
My boots were dead.
The soles were soft and useless now. I’m not sure of their original quality, looking back, but in my mind at the time I was walking in high-cotton with these beauties. But now, placing them on my feet, my heart sunk. When I realized they were truly dead, not just the soles but the “leather” part, too, I shook my head and felt a little embarrassed. What was I thinking? I kept something so long without using it that they literally fell apart.
It wasn’t long after the Boot Incident that I decided to start using “stuff.” It was hard at first. By “stuff” I mean using the plate my mother loved, the one she had given me years ago, but I had stored because I didn’t want it to break. Really, when I’m dead it could quite possibly end up in the dump! My daughter (and I say this with love) probably will donate it but if my son gets to it first, he will place it in a special box marked “Keep.” NO!!!!! Don’t keep it, use it! Give it away! What is the point of storing it?????
I started using the silver kid utensils my children had when they were babies. They were kept in their “baby” storage box until I dug them out. These are small and are Beatrix Potter’s theme. If I ever have grandchildren, I will sit the babies around my table and let them go to town with them, but for now, I use the spoons and forks for endearing things like olives and tiny, cut-up pieces of cheese at Christmastime, and special sauces. They’re in my common silverware drawer. You get the picture.
In the past few weeks, I have dug through my clothes closet and donated so many clothes I don’t even want to think about it. How can one person have so many things? I am so grateful for the clothes that I had, and have…in fact, I’m thankful for every single thing but when something isn’t needed any more, it needs to find a new home. And I’m doing just that.
It is easy.
And sometimes it’s hard.
And why have I been thinking this in the past few weeks?
I suppose it’s partly because of death, of change. Of moving forward and not looking back.
It’s because my dad is not going to live much longer, and coming to terms with his death, and all of this “stuff.” It’s because I have been gifted, in a way, with a closing of a life. Although none of us know the hour someone will leave us and cross over into another life, I have been given somewhat of a time line with my father. It’s bittersweet. But it’s OK. It’s how God wanted it.
And this time line is stored not on a shelf, but in my heart.
Just a few hours ago, my son and I stood in my father’s bedroom and so much of what my dad loves, my son loves. But even though we stood among old things, I knew none of the material things counted. Not to me. Not to Josh.
What my dad gave me, and I give to my children, is this:
The love of the wilderness. Of wild things. The love of coyotes crying out in the night, of rivers thundering, wild, in the beautiful Colorado mountains. The stars, in their multitudes, shining down on us. Marvel. Awe. How great this world is, and how small we are!!!!! He gave us the gift of being able to dream in 3-D where the stars are more numerous than even our imaginations can take us. He showed me how to walk in silence in the moccasins he gave me when I was five, so I wouldn’t disturb or worry the wild creatures in the night. He showed my heart medicine. In fact, I see now that my dad was a part of my remedy of life. And I never knew it. For this, I am sorry it came at such a time as this, but it came.
Then there’s Stuff.
My dad didn’t need stuff.
He did need the mountains and the stars. And his physics and math books (to some extent) and the poetry books, especially Robert Burns. He gave me my first poetry book when I was five and its pages were dog-eared in no time. I guess that’s stuff, but for the most part, my dad wasn’t into “stuff.”
Thank you, Dad, for not giving me a lot of Stuff.
As I read what I write, I’m wondering what to cut out. It’s wordy and some of it doesn’t even matter, but maybe it does matter, to me.
When you hold the hand of someone who is about to leave this world and cross over into another life, sometimes stuff matters. Like the poster of the mountain I put up over his bed. But guess what. Even though he gave a big smile when he saw me put it up, I know the mountains were in his heart way before it found its way to the wall. I thought I was putting it up for him, but maybe it was partly for me, too. And my kids.
We can’t take any of it with us. Everything we have collected over the years is going to be dust someday. So what if we love our art work that is placed on the walls, so what if we love the vase. So what if we love great-grandmother’s bowl that she made sour-dough bread in…it’s all going to be gone some day!!!! Better than that…we won’t be here some day! None of this is needed…not forever!!!
This is how I’m living now, and I have tried to live in these past few years:
I’m using stuff.
I’m throwing away stuff.
I’m donating stuff.
I’m living life.
Life is now.
As much as I want to reflect on my old, yellow bathrobe when I was ten, it’s aged and full of holes and it was doing nothing but sucking up space. It’s history. Yay!
As much as I want to save the vase from my great-grandmother, clear from Germany, in an old trunk, what’s the point? It’s out. I’m using it. I put flowers in it. I’m not saving it in a trunk for future generations.
I’m keeping some stuff, like my daughter’s vest from Girl Scouts, and the badges she earned. My son’s vest and badges are in my trunk, too. I’m keeping pictures. But other things, other stuff?
They’re being used or they have been donated.
This letting go isn’t so bad. I have a bit of journey, still, left to go in this letting-go department, but I’m doing it!
Many years ago, I made the decision to go ahead and start a new life in Arizona. It was one of the scariest things I had ever done, but in the process of change, I met Jennifer, and she became my life-long friend.
Jennifer taught me several things, but one thing that stands out is the lesson she taught me on friendship and love.
She taught me to make time for people. For friends. Whether you are married or single, make time for friends. The only thing we can take with us in the end is love, and everything stored up in our hearts. We can’t take Uncle Joe’s old tractor with us when we die, or my old saddle (although I may try), or chocolate or Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups.
It’s all about Love.
Maybe I already knew this, but Jennifer pushed this truth over the Home Plate.
Thank you, Jennifer.
Now, what was I writing about?
I was writing about Stuff and letting go.
In a nutshell: I like things, but I’m not going to store everything and save them for later. I’m going to use things, and enjoy things, and give away things. God gives us beautiful things and it’s OK to have them, and enjoy them! But really, it’s just stuff.
The real meat of life consists of relationships. Love. Laughter. Memories, if we are rich enough to have memories. The real meat of life is God and His grace and being thankful. I have so much to be thankful for, and so much of God’s intervention in my life has made it possible for me to pay things forward, as the saying goes.
And I have been given gifts of the spirit and heart. Far more than I ever expected. My dad has given me more treasures than I ever realized, and my heart beats stronger because of his once veiled love.
My heart is full of thanksgiving and worship. I am lighter, because “stuff” is being let go. Sometimes it’s released in vast waves, and sometimes it’s not, but it’s being let go.
And I’m thankful.
I think my walk is a little bit lighter now. I see a sunrise instead of a sunset. It’s all good. It’s all OK.
I’m giving up so much and in return, my heart is fuller than it’s ever been.
Not The End 😉