This past week, I found myself unexpectedly traveling to a funeral for a dear friend’s grandfather. It was a special time. This incredible man had volunteered to offer his life for his country in the second world war, and later raised three children (two adopted) with his wife. By the time I met them, his family was huge. Grandkids, nieces and nephews, great-grandkids, they seemed to be everywhere. More than once, I was astounded at the size and scope of this community.
During the week leading up to the service, my friend and I stayed in her grandfather’s home. It was so precious to be surrounded by decades of pictures, books, and trinkets. Each little piece held a story, and even though I didn’t know what they all were, I felt the weight of them. His home was a sanctuary. It wasn’t cluttered by any means, but full.
It was made clear to me that before too long the house would be emptied. Some family members would want an heirloom or two, but the vast majority of the collection would probably be tossed or donated. Everyone seemed fairly pragmatic about this fact, despite how I imagined they would feel. No one appeared to be overly torn up about the idea of moving on from the stuff that he had accumulated over the years. I didn’t fully understand why until the funeral itself.
The service was beautiful and very memorable. My friend’s family came together in a wonderful way to honor their patriarch, and I was touched by the stories each person told of how this remarkable man had helped to make them who they were. It seemed like everyone in the tiny town had been affected deeply by his life. Person after person stood up to tell tales of his funny antics, reminisce about his wisdom, and pay respect to his sacrifices. I began to see how the real collection wasn’t his library or china cabinet, but his town and his family. He spent his entire life investing in people, and they were creating a huge return. It was a beautiful realization.
It got me thinking about my priorities. It’s very easy, whether we fall on the side of hoarder or minimalist (or somewhere in between) to get so absorbed in the stuff we own and do that we forget about what really lasts. I love being a minimalist, but that’s not what I want written in my obituary. I want to be remembered for the people I touched, and the lives I changed. I want to pay the most attention to what I’ll leave behind.
If you have a moment, please go here and read about this remarkable man’s life. Many thanks to my friend and her family for allowing me to share in such a wonderful memorial.