Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sorting Through Everything Left Behind

So Day 6 of vacation brought more fun and conversations surrounding death. This is turning out to be a rather morbid vacation... We took the girls to a ceramic painting place. We shopped for cowgirl boots. Then Mum and I opened the back guest house to look through the remainder of my grandparents' belongings. Both of my grandparents died within the last 2 years. They were people who lived good lives, model bedrock citizens. They lived humble and frugal lives. They could have afforded to live more lavishly, but chose to give their money away. So the belongings left behind were of minimal monetary value, and it was my Mum's job to take care of them. 

I took on the task of going through Grandma's jewelery box. It was a large jewelery box, practically overflowing. There were a few rings of small value (alas, her wedding ring had been STOLEN in the nursing home... sigh...), some silver necklaces and pendants, and lots of costumey pins. Most everything was given as a gift. Or earned unintentionally. 

One of the noteworthy accomplishments of my grandparents' lives was that they always seemed to be giving away their time. They volunteered for a long list of organizations, according to what they could physically do at the time. In the years that I knew them, they helped out at a local state park, volunteered at multiple hospitals, and constantly took on various roles at their church. They volunteered well into their 80's, after cancer, strokes, and hip replacements. They took on mostly menial roles. While they had the skills to lead big fundraising campaigns, they instead cleaned park trails and bathrooms, led children on nature hikes, and visited patients in their local hospitals. They cooked countless meals and goodies for the sick and home-bound in their community. And towards the end, they served as substitute grandparents to all of the immigrant children that had moved into their neighborhood. And these were just the years that I knew them. I know the list could be much longer if I started earlier in their lives.

The jewelery box contained a large number of pins that commemorated their tireless service. They said things like "40 years", "20 years", "1000 hours". And many more just acknowledged their active participation in various volunteer groups. That is a serious commitment to service.

The objects left behind have little retail value. They will be sold for a pittance at a yard sale with the hope that they can make someone else happy in a new home. But they tell the story of two people that left a legacy. A legacy of a model life. A life buoyed by a strong Faith that gave them Hope in the dark days, kept them open to the wonder of Grace, and allowed them to celebrate Joy wherever they could find it. And this legacy is better than any family fortune, better than heirloom silver, better than anything that would allow us to pay off our horrific Boston mortgage (although I wouldn't complain if that came along too...)

And this is the legacy we can pass along to our girls. Stories of their great-grandparents, and an attempt to live the life that they did. Grandma once told me, "If you're not helping someone else, you're wasting your time." Yeah, I could spend the rest of my life trying to live up to that...

To everyone who lost family this past year (or past month), I pray that you too can find peace in the things your loved one left behind.


  1. Oh Joy, this is such a beautiful tribute to Grandma and Grandpa and the lives they lived. Beautifully spoken. We are so blessed to have had them in our lives and their example of service to live up to. Thank you for sharing their legacy to the world in this way. Love you to and your parents.

  2. wow, your grandparents sound amazing! What an incredibly life of service for the greater good of all.