I watched George Carlin’s comedy routine about “stuff,” thinking about linking to it here, but it seemed a bit too harsh for the purpose of this post.
We all have STUFF — not just our furniture, decors, clothes, photos and memorabilia from days gone by — but treasures, old and new, that we can’t bear to part with. Why do I still have my Girl Scout sash with all the badges that I earned and my autograph book from junior high? Why do my hub and I still have all of our vinyl — 45s and albums — even though we have replaced most of it on CD’s and now MP3’s via iTunes? Why does he still have most of his high school and college textbooks, and denim from every size he has ever been?
Because it’s tangible proof of our histories, memories of our past that we don’t want to let go? Or maybe because we have enough storage space and don’t have to make those decisions just yet?
Over the last few days, I’ve watched (and yes, helped with) removing the possessions of a dear friend from the place that had been her home for almost four years. Thankfully, her kids chose to take most of it — furnishings, family photos and mementos, art works, and other items that meant something to them. But there was so much left, things that they gave us permission to dispose of in whatever way we saw fit. Some of it will be consigned to bring the kids some remuneration, which they are entitled to. What’s left will be donated to good causes.
As one of the neighbors who has been organizing and cleaning out since our friend passed away and her family left (which we volunteered for and are happy to do) noted, it gives me pause how quickly a person’s life can be reduced to their stuff, what they left behind— whether valuable or disposable.
It’s been strange to see our friend’s beautiful home sorted into piles, and eventually nothing. I’m grateful that she doesn’t have to witness this, that she is not lingering in a hospital or assisted living facility, knowing that she will never return.
I am honored to be among the “trustees” of her stuff, making decisions about where it should go. And also, saddened that this work has to be done.
I’m thinking it would be better if we had a few weeks or however long; a warning of our demise, that we could prepare, weed out our own stuff, tell out kids what we would like them to keep and what is not so meaningful to us. There is another neighbor, who we are not personally close to, who is dying of cancer, given a few months to live. He has been able to get his affairs in order and plans to spend his remaining days traveling with his girlfriend.
Curious… do you think it would be better (for you and/or your loved ones) to know that your days were numbered? Providing a chance to say goodbye, to direct your own affairs and the distribution of your stuff. Or to go suddenly, as my friend did, with no suffering, and leave the sorting out to your family and friends?
P.S. I’ve written about stuff before… here