True ValueMrs. Lynn Klammer
Clearly Caring Magazine-Parish Edition, 3rd Quarter 2010, Vol. 30, No. 3
The auction bill read, “Due to the tragic deaths of Bill and Edith Webber, the following will be sold to the highest bidders...”
“How much do you think this is worth?” I asked my husband as I turned the china cup over. The delicate bone china felt light as a feather as I smoothed my finger over the feminine pink rose pattern.
“I don’t know,” answered my husband, barely glancing at the cup. “People are crazy. You can never tell what something will be worth to someone.”
I carefully set the cup down amid the various other material remains of a life long lived and followed my husband’s meanderings away from the household items to the “guy stuff.” Walking amid the clutter of hoes, saws and old engine parts we couldn’t stop ourselves from imagining what kind of man had once used these things.
“He must have been into woodworking,” my husband said as several partially-built birdhouses and knickknacks came into view. Old tractor parts attested to the probability that he had been a farmer at one time, and a brightly-colored sand bucket amid the rusty screws and old wrenches made me wonder if he was
most often referred to as “Grandpa.”
Auctions always make me a little sad. Especially when personal possessions are being sold off to the highest bidder, I can’t help but wonder about their previous owner.
Was that china cup Grandma’s favorite? Did Grandpa have special plans for those birdhouses sitting among the tools? So often I see old photographs, books and other material possessions that seem far too personal to sell. At the Webber auction I saw a book with the inscription, “To Aunt Edith on her 85th birthday” and a recipe box filled with hand-written recipes. How can loved ones part with these things? Thumbing through that recipe box I wondered how long “Aunt Edith” worked on her recipe for cinnamon rolls until she got it just right. Who would ever know now? They might never be made again.
The Value of People, Not Things
My persistent ruminations have prompted my husband to threaten to no longer take me with him to auctions. He says that all those accumulated possessions of a lifetime are just “things” and that has set me to wondering. Why do I have such an emotional response to these material things? Why should it seem important to save forever a china cup or half-finished birdhouse? I think the answer is that far too often we attach personal significance to something that isn’t. A ring that Grandma always wore might be a nice thing to remind us of her, but it’s not an extension of who she was. Things are just reminders. They don’t carry with them the thoughts and feelings of those who have left us behind and shouldn’t be fought over by grieving relatives. We should value people, not things. Value the love that cannot be seen with our eyes but felt in our hearts. The true mementos of our loved ones are the love they shared, the wisdom they imparted to us and the memories of both happy and unhappy times that carried us through.
There’s certainly a lesson to be learned by watching an auction. All those material “things” we spend our lifetime accumulating and sometimes value so highly, in the end, really don’t amount to much after all.
Mrs. Lynn Klammer is a licensed clinical psychologist, educator and author. She is a member of St. John's Ev. Lutheran Church in Frankenmuth, Michigan.
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