Living Simply: What we leave behind.

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.


54 thoughts on “Living Simply: What we leave behind.

  1. Proof positive that even beyond leaving our physical bodies we can continue to live on. Both you and he have touched my heart this morning, love is truly the gift that keeps on giving. I need to reassess things to figure out just what I want to leave behind.

    Love always,

  2. “He spent his entire life investing in people, and they were creating a huge return. It was a beautiful realization.” <–You put this so beautifully. Thanks for sharing!

  3. It is amazing how this concept of leaving a legacy in the people whose lives we touch is so powerfully evident when we attend funerals and memorials. And amazing/disheartening too how easy I’ve found it to be to lose sight of this realization when the mourning passes and the daily grind takes over again. Your writing, from the perspective of a minimalist (who actively thinks about the role of *things* in our lives) and from the unique position of an outside observer getting to share in a large, close family community’s tribute, is a great reminder of why we are really here and what our lives are truly about. Thanks for sharing your experience and insight!

  4. I seem to have similar realizations all the time, but almost instantly forget all about it and return to living a very materialistic life until my next epiphany. Thanks for this lovely article !

  5. I enjoyed reading about this amazing man with a huge heart and what a great life he led. I don’t know if I’m on the right track, I just prefer to live life rather than shop and play dress up. Thanks for putting such a great inspiring article up.

  6. It’s important to remember that the connections are more important than things. It’s so much easier to hold onto things. Great post!

  7. What a beautiful post. I often find myself decluttering my life just for the sake of decluttering, but it’s always good to be reminded of the more meaningful things we should be replacing the clutter with!

  8. “You can’t take it with you…” that’s my mantra about stuff and priorities in life. And really, despite our narrow and often depth-lacking views on afterlife, no one has come back to really tell us if there is one!

    We spend our whole lives acquiring STUFF. The attitude is incredibly capitalistic. It’s a hunger that is never satiated. I recently came up with the idea of a parallel universe where we start out with everything we could want at the start of our life and then as time goes by we give it all away and finally pass when it’s all gone. I put it into a short story calling ‘Giving It Away’ on my own blog. Check it out,

    Thanks for a lovely post!

  9. All of us hold on to things because we fear, I fear, that we might lose the memories they bring along. But you got me thinking again. It’s the memories which matter more than the things… What could matter more than staying behind in the memoriess of people long after you’re gone…
    To live after death… Maybe that’s what after life could mean… Maybe…

  10. You’re so right, we should think more on our actions and how they may impact the life of others. The life of the man you wrote about was worth it till the last of his minutes. If we could be a little more like him, this place would be a better world.

  11. It is one of those lessons we seem to need to learn over and over!! Investing in people is the way to go!! I may use this as inspiration for my next post!! Just think if we had that same mantra in education!! Focus on the people, not all the stuff! Bravo!

  12. What a wonderful and engaging write. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! You are certainly deserving of the honor, and we, the readers, are all the richer for being introduced to you! I look forward to reading more of your blog. Again..wonderful and congrats! ~Dennis

  13. Material things get lost, sold or damaged, but good memories can’t be erased and will be kept forever in the minds of those who experienced it. They can not be taken away, or sold. Sometimes that’s all we need, the good times with our departed loved ones. They are with you always whenever you can recall the time well spent with them.

  14. “When an old man dies a library burns to the ground” but reading this blog I believe that he had left behind people who have preserved it. Beautiful blog.

  15. I believe what he has done by investing in people and helping others, he lived a very fulfilling life, I think it’s one of the most satisfying things we can do is to give to another person, be it wisdom, love, gifts, money anything that will make their heart smile, will make yours smile wider!

  16. What a wonderful post. I too live a minimalist life, choosing to continuously acquire knowledge, lasting memories and brilliant people as opposed to ‘stuff’. There is only so much you can fit in a backpack! I can only hope that one day a similar post can be written about what it is that I leave behind when I depart this life.

  17. Thank you so much for sharing, Leaving someone behind is extremely difficult .But he invested into others and lived a very substantial life.
    Thank you so much for the read!

  18. I wish I could let go of possessions. I hoard, not on the scale of the TV series but enough to realise that should I die there will be boxes and boxes – rooms in fact, of ‘stuff’ that will be donated to charity.

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