What Will You Inherit?

Grandma, Katie, and the Infamously Ugly Apron

Grandma, Baby Katie, and the Infamously Ugly Apron

My grandmother passed away on August 16th after battling a brief, unexpected illness.  I was blessed to spend much of her last three weeks at the hospital, where I brushed her hair and rubbed her feet, prayed with her, and most importantly, had the opportunity to hold her hand and tell her how much she meant in my life.  I wish I could have her back, but I will be forever grateful for that time.

My mom was granted the difficult task of serving as executor for my grandmother’s estate.  My grandparents had subscribed to the Irish Catholic method of family planning (Make babies.  Lots of them.), so there has been a small crowd to contend with—not to mention, boxing up the life of a loved one is just an impossibly emotional task.  I believe there is a special place in hell for the person who enjoys putting together estate sales.

Fortunately, I have seen many of my family members step up during this process—we’ve pulled together to clean, sort, price, and fix up the house.  We’ve gotten to share memories as we come across different items, especially anything related to Christmas (the woman loved Christmas…I’m talking 10 Rubbermaid bins full of holiday cheer).

What has struck me is our connection to stuff and the meaning that we give to it.  I now am the proud owner of the world’s ugliest apron.  Despite its appearance, it will always hold some significance because there are several pictures of my grandmother wearing it and holding me, and because one of the most important things in her life was to be in her kitchen, cooking for her family.  This is when I think that stuff can serve an important role in healing—while it doesn’t bring her back, it serves as a visual reminder of happy memories.

Unfortunately, there are some I see approaching all of this with a, “what’s in it for me?” attitude.  How sad that you have reduced her worth to money and stuff.  It’s not about that.  It’s about the times she helped you, and prayed for you, and the times that she made you dinner and took care of you when you were sick.  It’s about the times that she welcomed you and your family back into her home when you had no other options.

It is not about your inheritance.  It is not about a flat screen tv, or a grill, or a KitchenAid mixer.  It is not about jewelry, or furniture, or a car.

You know why?

Because money and stuff will never give you the satisfaction of knowing that you were loved.

Her work ethic; her love of cooking; her sense of humor; her caring, selfless attitude; and even her ability to tell and re-tell the most long-winded, but legendary stories—those are the things you should worry about inheriting.  Those are the things that made a life.