I stopped at an estate sale today on my way home from church. Total strangers were sitting behind card tables taking cash for items sold. I made my way through each of the rooms. There was a wedding dress that had yellowed, costume jewelry, clip-on earrings, hand knitted afghans, Christmas ornaments, doll houses… Junk to most of the people who walked through while I was there. Just “junk” to me, as well.
Sometimes I wonder what will become of the little treasured possessions I’ve kept over the years. Will they just be “junk” in an estate sale some day too? Probably.
In my top drawer are my old tara brooches from my Irish dance costumes. They bring back so many good memories of my childhood, but will probably be old lady costume jewelry to someone one day. There are drawings the kids made when they were young. No one but me will ever cherish those. The teeny tiny hat my stillborn daughter wore. I don’t know why anyone would want it, but every now and then, I pick it up and hold it tight. A prayer book from 3rd grade – I loved that book so much. My ration card from Germany – Dad told me to hold onto it, so I did. Surely that will wind up in the garbage. And then there’s this chunk of cement with graffiti on it, and about a 6-inch piece of rusty old barbed wire. Someone will surely think I was a junk collector!
But that little piece of cement means a lot to me, and it meant something to a new patient I met a few weeks ago too!
I recognized this woman’s accent immediately. She was from Berlin. We began talking and sharing, and we soon realized she grew up only a few blocks away from the street my son Rory and I lived on, in Berlin, Germany. It had been many years since she’d been home, and she asked me all about what it was like to live there after the Berlin Wall had come down. I went home that evening and went through all of my books, determined to find one that had been given to me as a gift from a neighbor and friend named Regine, when we left Berlin to return to the United States.
Last week when my sweet little Berliner came in, I surprised her, and handed she and her daughter the book. Her daughter sat and read her the entire thing while they looked through all of the pictures of Berlin’s history together. My patient cried when she saw a photo of the bakery she frequented as a small child. She was delighted to know it is still there! And then I pulled the little bag out of my pocket that held my chunk of the Berlin Wall and rusty old barbed wire that once separated East Berlin from West Berlin. Immediately she put one hand over her mouth as she gasped, and she began crying.
Both she and her daughter told me how much they enjoyed looking at the history book, and the piece of the Berlin Wall, and her daughter told me how much she loved being with her mother that day – sharing so many memories of her childhood in a place she’d never been able to take her to see. I was so glad to see them enjoying each other and that TIME together.
A history book, a piece of cement covered with graffiti, and a rusty old piece of barbed wire – probably the last thing someone would take if I were ever robbed, but so meaningful to me. Maybe even more meaningful now, 30 years later. When I had a moment to chat with her, I asked her why she cried, and as I expected, she said that she missed her country, and had so many sweet memories of growing up there in Berlin. But then she paused and told me she fears for our youth today. Her tears stopped, and she seemed to get angry almost. “This history is forgotten,” she said. “Make sure your children understand what this piece of cement represents.”
I promised her that I would. And I will. I’ll make sure they know about the people in East Berlin hearing in the middle of the night that the wall had come down. I’ll make sure they know about the stories they told, of leaving their homes to go see if this was true, and coming to West Berlin to, find work, and find their family members they’d not seen for decades. I’ll make sure I tell them the stories we heard of freedom!
I hope some day my sons can pass along the stories that accompany the artifacts I’ve saved as treasured possessions in the top drawer of my dresser.
But I also can’t help but think of the Cross Jesus died on, and those dirty, sharp thorns that crowned his head. I’ll make sure I tell my grandchildren about that history too, and I’ll pray that they pass that Truth, and those stories down too, and I’ll pray that they’ll cherish my treasures for years to come – but that they’ll cherish the old rugged Cross, and the freedom it represents even more!