As I drove up to the multi-storied house, the “Estate Sale” sign reminded me of my mission. Look for something I could use at work – some objects that would bring encouragement to the women I coach: maybe a pot of flowers, some beautiful cards, a trinket I could give away.
What I didn’t expect to find was a story.
I joined the crowd of people poking through bedrooms, closets and kitchen – each of us searching for treasures at a reduced price.
Empathy set in as I realized this was a family who had just buried their matriarch. Now they had sold her house and were sorting through what she left behind, offering pieces of her life to strangers.
What sort of life did she live? The question hounded me even as I began to discover clues to her story.
In the garage, colorful pots for planting the cuttings of a new flower or plant. The texture of the pots described a women who was attracted to pottery rather than spray-painted plastic. A woman who appreciated the genuine.
A stack of books pulled me like a magnet into the intrigue of a life past. Most of us can tell our stories by the choices of books we keep on our shelves.
This woman read financial summaries and economic treatises. A mathematical mind, detailed, and carefully constructed to pay attention to pi, cosign and greater than.
A pile of books about alternative health. Was she sickened by a disease no one could treat, so she tried to find help beyond the traditional medical community? Did any of the vitamins, acupuncture or colloidal treatments give her a few more years of quality life?
Sadly – no books on religion. No Bibles. No creative poetry or coffee table books – unless her family already sequestered those to keep alive the memories of mom and grandmother.
The basement, filled with Christmas decorations. Obviously a woman who loved the holidays and filled her lavish home with pine wreaths, Scandinavian villages that lit up and over-sized ornaments, sparkling in the dim basement light.
The story of her life became even more clear as I combed through bedding, crept into closets and fingered vintage textures. This woman knew her own style and didn’t care for polyester cutouts that looked like everyone else.
In the kitchen, more health-conscious books about nutrition, cooking without cholesterol-building substances, how to incorporate chicken instead of beef into favorite recipes.
Suddenly a wave of grief as I chose a casserole pan I needed, wondering how many chicken meals she fixed in that particular pan before she finally succumbed to the frailty of her last days.
Before payment at the front parlor check-out, I walked through the house once more, prayed for the grieving family, found a few more treasures and considered how story follows us throughout life.
What kind of story did my life tell and how was it accented by my stuff? If someone looked through my bookshelves, could they determine I am a student of theology, a creative writer and and a woman who loves color and texture?
If a stranger looked under my deck, would they determine how I garden with old yet favorite tools, that the farmer gene in me has never exited, even after years in the city?
Would my costume jewelry, my terracotta pottery and my wooden rocking chair whisper that I am a simple country girl who finds solace in the beauty of handmade afghans, multiple stacks of books and the comforting jangle of a flowery mobile from New Mexico?
I came away from that estate sale hugging a garden birdhouse with its trailing ivy, a package of Christmas bulbs in my favorite dark purple, the casserole pan I needed to replace its long-ago-broken twin and a sense of story that emanated from the treasures I held.
We are each living the story of our lives. How much of our stuff reflects our authenticity and moves others to consider hope?
©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh