When Grandma died this past fall, Uncle Tom served as a master of ceremonies of sorts as we distributed her earthly belongings. Tom has a flair for living, a love of all things beautiful and a spirit of generosity. After we buried Grandma, he led the family from one area of Grandma's house to the next, displaying treasurers as if he were dressing a store window at Tiffany's. Then he led us in sharing the stories that the items evoked.
First he spread Grandma's scarves out on the bed where she had convalesced. And he began spinning stories to remind us of the woman who had worn them.
Tom told us some of the scarves were quite valuable since they were even older than Grandma. They were antiques of the fabric kind. Others were colorful, couture collectibles.
As the scarves released a fading fragrance of Grandma, Tom recalled special occasions for which they were purchased or worn. At the end of each story, he draped a scarf around the neck of one of his sisters or nieces, or presented them to one of my cousins to give to their wives. Inevitably everyone standing around the bed unanimously celebrated the giving. Larger items such as furniture, china and jewelry were treated in a similar fashion. Stories were recalled and told.
Survivors graciously decided for whom the objects would best be suited. Family members were free to express attachments to items that held sentimental or aesthetic meaning. We also considered interests and passions that might link one of us to a specific object.
At one point, Tom walked me into the kitchen to a cabinet filled with assorted teacups that Grandpa had collected for Grandma over the years. Tom knew that I have an annual tea party with three of my cousins—a tradition that began at Grandma's home in Minnesota. The gift of these cups ensured that our tradition would continue with a tangible piece of Grandma's legacy linking us together.
When I remember Grandma, I think of her smiling eyes, her feisty attitude and her hospitality. When I recall her funeral, I picture the blanket of daisies covering her casket, the Scriptures read by my aunt, and the kind words of remembrance spoken by my cousins and brother. I also hold onto the memories of grace and generosity that Grandma's children extended as they distributed her belongings.
Honor, respect and tribute were paid to Grandma. Generosity triumphed over greed. And care was taken in a selfless distribution that considered each child and grandchild's personal connection to Grandma.
I hope and pray that my brother and I will walk in the path of their grace and generosity when it's our turn to be the masters of ceremonies celebrating the lives of our parents.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers