I’m still not sure what the heck my friend and I were stuck behind headed north on Hayes Road today on our way home from church. Bumper to bumper we sat for 20 minutes, when we spotted an “Estate Sale!” sign, and decided that checking it out was a good idea. Maybe the traffic might even clear up by the time we hit the road again, we figured.
Cars were lined up on both sides of the road, bumper to bumper just like what we thought we’d just escaped, and to our surprise, the estate sale was at the home of a patient we’d both cared for. “Should we go in?” we wondered between the two of us, and finally decided we’d go in to say hello to the family we’d come to love.
But the family wasn’t there. A young gentleman who worked for an estate sale company sat at a table with a small cash registered. People looking for good deals on valuable items that once belonged to this woman we’d known, would stand in line to pay for their bargain finds that came from the closets and dresser drawers of this precious woman I’d known.
Costume jewelry was spread out on the table where I once sat and discussed a cancer diagnosis with my patient, and let her cry and share her fears. The once well-watered and cared for house plants that provided beauty for her once she became bed bound, were missing from the table in front of the picture window. Every cupboard door was open – those beautiful, shiny cupboards where she showed me how to clean wood one day when I told her the bad shape that mine were currently in. She had the “secret,” she said, (and she did). If you can find the perfect car rental prices, you’ll be savig yourself a good chuck of money. That extra money can go towards your roadtrip, you can get more info here.
Price tags hung from the stemware in her cupboard. A man was on the floor of her closet rummaging through items of clothing. Another woman was in her closet trying on hats and looking at herself in the mirror. Her pretty purple shawl she loved so much to have around her shoulders, now hung on the handle of a door upstairs – a mere $15 for whoever wanted it. So many people were coming and going, passing each other in and out of each room, pillaging through her cherished belongings, looking for good deals. The room she passed away in was empty. She’s gone now.
I remember her so well. I won’t forget her. I watched her make everything right when she knew she’d be leaving soon. I listened to her as she….. did NOT make plans for her “things,” but as she made things right with her loved ones. She died a beautiful, peaceful, confident, hopeful, unafraid death.
Oh, she took plenty with her when she left, but none of what she took had a price tag on it.
And she took none of her “stuff” with her.
I got home about an hour ago, pulled into the garage, looked around at my “stuff,” and couldn’t help but think that some day people will rummage through my meaningful things and perhaps some of my most cherished items will wind up in a dumpster, and I will be gone – just like her – just like that.
I’ve been a nurse a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of people die – but no one has ever, ever asked in their last days to see a photo of their mansion, or their boat, one last glance at the balance in their bank account, or any of their other “stuff.”
If you want to know what really matters, ask someone who’s dying. (It’s not the stuff).
In this season – this season of often feeling as though I am falling apart physically, and am reminded daily by general aches and pains that I am aging… I want to embrace the lessons I’ve learned, and focus on what matters most – the relationships, the opportunities, the chance to laugh (it’s the best medicine, ya know), those meaningful, cherished, unseen things I can’t hold in my hand that I WILL take with me when I go…
So I’m glad my friend and I got stuck in traffic. It gave us a chance to talk a little longer. I’m glad we swung by the estate sale. It reminded me of the gift it was to participate in a meaningful way at the end of someone’s journey home, and to witness what dying ought to look like. I’m glad I was reminded that the stuff I collect is meaningless, but the way I choose to treat and speak to people can be encouraging, kind, life-giving, and most of all – meaningful.
My friend and I got back in the car, and headed back out onto Hayes Road. The traffic remained bumper to bumper all the way home, but that’s okay. The company was sweet.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21