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Reflections on Stuff

Greg didn't care much about possessions. He didn't need a nice car or a big home. He preferred a worn-in t-shirt and a dinged up table. He threw his stuff around and let it get marked up, banged up, scratched up.

He did care about some things: his books (though he dog-eared them all the way down to the sentence he liked) and his computer (though he let P use it and get crumbs all over the keyboard). But he was a lot less concerned about keeping things nice than I am.

Looking around our home lately, I've been thinking that he may have been right after all. His stuff is still here, but he is gone.

To us, these things are precious. Because they are his. "Daddy's chair", "Daddy's water bottle", "Daddy shirt". I've held on to his slippers, backpack and favorite insulated cup. I've made blankets from his iconic t-shirts and bandanas. I sleep in his favorite t-shirt and wear his sweatshirt almost every morning. P sleeps with "Daddy shirts" and the "Daddy pillow".

Aside from memories, G's stuff is really all we have left of him. The only tangible things that we can see, touch, hold and remember. The sign that he really was here. The constant reminder that our family of 2 was once a family of 3.

But for him? Well the cliché is true: we can't take anything with us. It has all outlasted him. Every single thing he ever possessed - except for the clothes he was buried in - was lost to him on the day he died. His book collection, game collection, favorite shirts. The chair he preferred, the cup he drank from each day. None of it mattered in the end.

He was right to enjoy things but not to hold onto them. Because in the end he couldn't.

And what will happen to his stuff now?

Already some has been given away. A little bit to family, a little bit to charity. Someone else is driving his car. Someone else is wearing his pants. One day someone else will be reading his books and the chair he loved so much will be in a landfill.

Right now, the someone else is often family and so it matters. These things seem precious because they are being used by people he loved and who loved him. But that won't always be the case. Eventually the chair will just be a chair - or trash. The books will just be used books that someone finds in a thrift store.

The stuff has outlasted the man. Someday it will outlast the ones who loved him. And eventually it will all be destroyed.

So life can't be about stuff. But also, stuff matters when you loved the one who owned it. It is a link to what has been lost.

I'm wondering how to live in light of this tension. Knowing that stuff matters to an extent, but not ultimately. Knowing that the little things matter more than the big. The favorite books have been kept but the car is gone.

Maybe the answer is to enjoy what I have but not to seek to accumulate more. Maybe I should tenderly care for the bit that may be treasured by my son when I die but realize that the vast majority will be disposed of. Maybe I should enjoy things for what they are but live for something else - for Someone else.

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” - Luke 12:15


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