Originally published in Flourishing December 2010.
You have things in your home that are important to you, not just for their tangible value, but for their intangible or symbolic value, for the memories attached to them, the stories, too, perhaps.
In my case, I have pictures and letters dating back to the mid-19th century and a dictionary owned by my mother’s grandfather. They have no monetary value, but I have in my mind the stories that my mother shared with me. I know those people. I understand who they were and, more importantly, they’ve provided me with insights into the person I am.
I have evidence of our children’s and grandchildren’s childhood creativity and achievements, their school pictures, and much more. Someday, I think and hope, they’ll appreciate the love that Linda has put into preserving the spirit of their youth. They, too, may gain insight into the development of their own personalities and interests.
I have a ring that belonged to my father’s mother. Violet Nestelrode Harvey died in 1924, when my father was just six years old. I have pictures of her, too. I cherish these things, because I can see that she was a loving and caring mother, profoundly missed by my father and his two younger brothers, Forrest and George. I can now understand the effect her premature death had on their lives and their personalities, and they on mine.
As I approach my dotage, all these things are more treasured than ever, and someday, I believe, they’ll be treasured by others who share my lineage. All have a story attached to them. My siblings and I have taken it as our responsibility to preserve those stories, as well as the artifacts, for the people we must someday leave behind. We’re working on that right now.
Let me ask you: What are those treasured things in your life, and what meaning or story is associated with them? What is the most significant object or heirloom that was given to you by a child, a parent, your spouse, or an ancestor? Did the person who gave you this object or heirloom tell you a story about that item? Can you—will you—share a story of remembrance or gratitude with those who will inherit these things from you?
Can you—will you—share your personality with those members of your family who will otherwise never know you? Do it for them. It will, I promise, bring new joy and understanding into your own life. mh