A Window Into a Life

I have spent the last couple months helping my mom go through my aunt Sarah’s things. My aunt, who was killed in a car accident on March 3 by a drunk driver, had no one left but my mom. Her husband, her only child, her parents, and her two brothers had all gone on before her. That left her only sister, my mom, to help her as she grew older, although many of her other relatives did support and encourage her–particularly my cousin Mark, who took the time to call her every day and whom she loved dearly. Because she had no family of her own, she joined our family gatherings and celebrations as an adopted and much beloved member of our family. She was kind and generous and made us laugh. Needless to say, our family feels incomplete without her.

Going through her things fell to my mom and, of course, I wanted to help her. It is quite the job going through someone’s things, as I know so many of you fully understand.

I knew it would be time-consuming, but what I didn’t realize is how emotionally difficult and draining it would be. What we keep through the years really says something about us. It gives a window into the soul of a person in ways that conversations never can.

I already knew my aunt Sarah LOVED knick-knacks but came to understand this in a much more meaningful way as we gathered item after item from every conceivable surface. Many were the $1.99 or .97 cent Goodwill tags we found on the bottom of porcelain or glass figurines. She had some things she especially loved and we found lots of bears, eagles, dogs, cats, and apples. She loved animals, which was evidenced by the many figurines and doodads found in her home. They loved her, too (as you can see in the top right photo) and she was often found with a little dog curled up on her lap.

We also found several of those Avon glass aftershave bottles that used to be in the shapes of things. Deer, bear, birds, trains… anyone remember those? And my aunt loved Christmas and she loved gaudy things and so we also found lots of tacky Christmas decorations. We even found a big bucket of dehydrated food in case of an emergency– 200 homemade, gourmet meals are claimed to be in that bucket! Haha!

We discovered that if she liked a specific shirt, she’d go back and get it in every color. There were four or five shirts that were in multiples of different colors. One specific one seemed to have endless color options and I am sure we packed away ten or twelve of that same shirt in every color possible. Like most of us, she mostly wore only a handful of the plentiful options in her closet and there were some things that were never worn at all. And it was definitely confirmed that purple was her favorite color, which we already knew.

We also discovered that she had kept lots and lots of things from my grandma’s house and memories flooded my mind as I saw things on shelves and in cabinets that I hadn’t seen in years. But none brought more memories flooding back than when I opened her bathroom cabinet to start clearing it out and found the plastic frog that used to sit on my grandmother’s tub and hold the Dove soap. Immediately, I was back in my grandmother’s tiny bathroom, playing with that frog, spritzing the side of the tub with the squirty hole at the top of his white hat while I was taking a bath in her tub. Why my aunt kept this plastic frog all these years I have no idea. But isn’t it amazing how something can take you back to your childhood in a second? Of course, I’ll probably keep it for my kids to find one day. But it won’t mean a thing to them. To them, it will be junk to discard. Such is the nature of “stuff”. What to one has great sentimental value, to another has no value at all.

And, while we had some good laughs over the many odd and sundry things that she kept through the years, we also found some things that made us feel sad. Guest books and programs from the funerals of those she loved so dearly; expired driver’s licenses of her husband and son; lots and lots of old photos of her beloved family; and a diary of daily activity of sorts (but no date).

Another thing we found in her kitchen cabinets were gifts that we had given to her that had been tucked away and never used. Cute mugs were put in a cabinet far from the sink, because, clearly, she had preferred her tiny, {very} stained Corelle coffee cups.

This window into her life has been sad but it’s also been interesting. I wish I could talk with her about some of the things I found and find out why they were special to her. I wish we could talk more about the music she so obviously loved and her memories of Christmases long ago.

But we just always think we have tomorrow, don’t we?

The most precious thing we found were a stack of notebooks that were filled with Bible verses. She had very specifically chosen these verses and had handwritten each one. Her Bible was well-used and her devotional book held a bookmark that was located at the very date of her death. She had had her devotions that very morning before she left, unaware that she was going to meet Jesus in just a few short hours.

My aunt had been rather reticent about her walk with God and so, while we had always assumed and hoped that she knew the Lord as her personal Savior, there was always a teeny bit of doubt and uncertainty. But finding her Bible and these notebooks were such a comfort to us. Sometimes people just struggle to talk about the things of the Lord. It may be just a personality thing or it may be the vestiges of hurts and experiences from long ago. But, whatever the reason, in this case it took her death to get a better idea just where she stood with the Lord. Those notebooks, especially, felt like a gift from the Lord.

As we finished up packing most of her things today, I thought about my own home and what my family would find if they packed up my things. What about your family? What would they find? Would it be clear that we loved God with our whole hearts? Would there be well-worn Bibles, prayer journals, or notebooks filled with handwritten Bible verses? Would they find any wicked or demonic entertainment or books? What if they went on to our computers and read our emails or looked at our web history?

This was a great reminder that what is hidden will be revealed in the end. Eventually, we will all leave this earth and who we were will be made clear to those we love. What a great reminder to live pure and holy lives, both publicly and privately.

This exercise of going through my aunt’s things confirmed how important it is to be intentional about purifying my life and walking with God. Because one day our loved ones will learn to know us in a whole new way. May there be no surprises but, rather, may it simply be a confirmation of who they already knew us to be!

2 thoughts on “A Window Into a Life”

  1. I’m so sorry to hear about your aunt, but also thankful that you found evidence of her faith. I feel like she would be someone I would like to know. Peace and comfort to you and your family.

  2. Precious memories how i miss her she’s a wonderful person spread cheer wherever she went even when she would come see reba and us in Stevens she loved the Lord with all her heart we will see you again when our time is over here on earth

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