For the past several months I have been cleaning out our house. It has been an epic cleanse, not so much with buckets and mops but rather large bags and boxes, with the Red Cross and For Sale Facebook pages seeing the fruits of my labor. I believe the house is literally a foot higher off its foundation for all that has been removed in recent weeks. The strange thing is, I haven’t minded at all parting with this collection of knick-knacks, art pieces (and I use that word loosely), furniture and photo albums. It is strange to discover that what took a lifetime to accumulate and seemed so important while doing so can be shed with so little emotional reaction. My priorities have changed.
My second surprise has been what I have discovered are the real treasures, the true priceless pieces with which I do not want to part. It seems my favorite souvenirs came in tattered yellow envelopes, like the letter written to my mother by her father in 1946 in his tender attempt to prepare her for her mother’s imminent death. Not only had I not seen this before, I had never even seen a single word penned by my grandfather. This letter was worth all the hours spent tossing out elementary school report cards and birthday cards from my first boyfriend.
What is the point of sharing my story? It is that we need not fear “losing everything.” During our lifetimes, we will all suffer losses, and for many of us, they will be potentially serious economic setbacks. We lose opportunities, jobs, and savings. In the worst of circumstances, we might lose our home or all our possessions. As I write this, I am thinking of our neighbors in the Bahamas who have lost their entire way of life – their community and for many, their identity. Yet not a single suffering person has been screaming out for their furniture or their boats or their clothes. Their losses are heartbreaking, but they are all about people, and connection and community. To lose our personal history would feel catastrophic, but as long as someone lives to tell the story, even that is not completely lost.
In our digital age there are fewer letters and cards to save, fewer photos printed and postcards tossed in shoeboxes. I hope my younger family and friends will treasure their memories – in whatever form they save them – and discover as I have that after all is said and done, the “priceless stuff” is not what you thought.
By Eileen Crawford, MS, LMHC
Eileen Crawford is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in private practice in Celebration. Learn more at CounselingforFamilyHealth.com.
The above article appears in the October 2019 edition of the Celebration News