What Was Left Behind

1 Sep
A few weeks ago I attended an estate sale. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, an estate sale is like a garage sale, but much bigger. With a garage sale people are trying to get rid of a few things they no longer need. With an estate sale, people are trying to get rid of everything. Most often, estate sales occur after someone has died and their loved ones are trying to clear the house to sell it.

This wasn’t the first estate sale I had ever been to; I love going to garage and estate sales. But for some reason, at this particular sale, I was burdened by a new revelation. You see, with garage sales (or yard sales), people just lay old, dusty items out on a table or on the ground outside to allow people to rummage through them. But at an estate sale, you are allowed to enter into the persons home and walk through all the rooms, many times viewing items as they were used and left by the previous occupant. As I walked through this house, into the small, neatly organize bedroom, I noticed a mirrored-glass tray with several pieces of women’s jewelry and a few men’s cuff links. As I evaluated them for quality and purchase consideration, an unkempt looking man who stood a few feet away from me began to ask me questions about the contents of the small jewelry box he was holding and rigorously searching through. He wanted to know if the item that had caught his interest was a tie pin or a cuff link. I had no clue, but luckily one of the hosts breezed by and answered his lingering question. It was a cuff link.

By now you’re wondering why I’m telling you about this estate sale and the cuff links and the guy who looked a little greasy, but could have been a mechanic. A couple minutes after his question had been answered, mine began.

Is this what we leave behind?

From the items being sold it appeared that an old couple used to reside in this house. Based on other information that I had received I was convinced that both the man and woman were now deceased. All their years of life were over and so much of what they had worked for was left behind, in this house. Now the mechanic and I, along with a bunch of other indifferent folks were walking through their home, opening their jewelry boxes, sitting on their chairs, buying their things and hauling them away as if this couple never even existed.

I now look around my house, at all the things that I have accumulated and realize that I cannot take any of it with me. I wonder, when I die, who will walk through my house? Who will handle the things that were so precious to me? Who will go through my closets and dressers and cabinets? Who will buy my stuff and haul it away as if I never even existed?

As a society, we spend so much time worried about stuff that we can’t keep. Our possession of it is only temporary. Whether we throw it away, lose it, sell it, or die, sooner or later, it will pass on to another’s hand or end up in a landfill. That is simply the way it works, this thing called life.

Does that change the way you think and feel about material possessions? It should. No matter how hard you work for it, how much money you spend on it, or how well you take care of it, the reality is this: You cannot keep it. This unknown couple left it all behind, so will I, and so will you.       

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