The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Treasures without turmoil

Readers advise how to distribute heirlooms after a family death

Granted, not every sibling has the same treasure tale as Mary Ann Johnson and her brother

The Johnsons came from distant cities to clean out their parental home in Lubbock, Texas, after their mother's death. Their thoughtful, methodical way of working through the house in one week's time proved to be a success story.

"We chose easy tasks first, beginning with the linen closets," says Mary Ann Johnson, a member of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Lancaster, Pa. "We worked on, moving gradually to more difficult decisions. As tears sometimes flowed and possible conflicts entered the dynamic, we vowed that we wouldn't allow pain and hurt feelings to jeopardize our love and support of one another during this painful task."

They placed the most sentimental objects on a table in the family room. When all else was sorted, they returned to those items. "I chose, then he, until everything was gone," she says. "To this day we have some of these special items in our homes, and our relationship continued with new respect and affirmation for who each of us was in our adult life, having shared this common start."

Johnson and other survivors — of loved ones and of potential conflicts — responded to The Lutheran's reader call for inventive ways to distribute goods after a family death.

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