I spent this past week with my son, sister, and step-sister going through my dad and step-mom’s house and shed. We have gone through a lot of stuff. Stuff was the operative word for the week and lots of questions as to “Why?” did they keep this? A common answer was, “Just add it to the list of questions.” When one is faced with such a task care needs to be taken that things are not discarded that hold value, be it material value or sentimental family value. In order to make sure that does not happen we had to wander our way through every box, drawer, book, pocket, hutch, etc.
The task that lay before us last week and in the weeks to come did and does seem time consuming and at times overwhelming. Sorting, organizing, boxing, labeling, searching, sifting, cleaning as we went, the days seemed to drag on and at the same time we found ourselves at the end of the day and feeling less than accomplished.
I think some of the things we went through and encountered along the way; clothes, crafty items, Christmas decorations, books, tools, etc., we found things that caused us to wonder, things that caused us to stop and ponder earlier days, things that caused us to laugh, and those things of memory and meaning that catch our breath away and bring a tear to the eye.
I think of these things now some three days since being there in the house and ponder the deeper things of life and love and faith. Even though there were chuckles and queries as to why and what, the things we sorted through were the stuff of life … the stuff of the lives of two we were connected to, bound to in the cords of family and love.
I sat on Saturday and visited with an aunt and uncle and we were talking about the task we were set on. My aunt spoke of cleaning out one of her family’s homes and said much of the same things we have pondered and then she said something that caused me pause. When asking the “why” question it was obvious at some point this/these things meant something to them. The items, be they simple material goods or sentimental to us had meant something to my dad and my step-mom at some point along their journey and so they kept it.
Some of the things we handled that week we knew why they were still in the house. We knew the story behind them or at least a portion of the story and in that those things held meaning for us as well because we were part of the story they told. Some of the things we held and passed through our hands we had no idea what the story was or the why’s, how’s, when’s, or what’s of them, to us it was just stuff … or was it?
As I muse over the past week , even in my questions, chuckles, laughter, wonderings, and tears … there was something sacred at the core of what we were about there in that house. There was something holy about the ground on which we stood. There was Presence in our midst as we sorted through the very lives of a dad and a mom, it was the stuff of life I believe, right down to the dust that filled our nostrils and coated our faces. We held in our hands the stories of our families, our own stories so to speak, part of who we are is contained in those clothes, books, Christmas decorations, and tools, part of why we are is contained in those things.
As we passed this sacred stuff through our hands and washed it off at the sink we told the story to one another, we remembered, we shared, we told of new understandings, and old hurts, of laughter and of tears. The old house breathed of the stuff of life, of good times and struggles, of joys and heartaches, of life.
These are the things that make up our lives. Our lives would be flat and bland if the days were only filled with sunshine and would be too much to bear if only filled with cloudy and stormy days.
So today, these are the things I ponder about a week of sorting through the lives of my dad and step-mom. These are the things I ponder as I consider the stuff of life that passed through my hands that has had some effect, consciously or unconsciously, on who and why I am… in the midst of that … I am confident as I return to continue to task another day … maybe just for a few moments I will remove my shoes as I cross the threshold and stop and give thanks … for life, love, and faith … and family.