Have you ever had one of those days where everything is going as you’ve planned, and then some little thing–an email from a friend, a phrase from your child, a story on the news–just stops you in your tracks? And then suddenly the whole day looks different? Today has been one of those days for me.
This morning, I went to an estate sale in a neighborhood just down the road from me. A neighborhood in my same, affluent Dallas suburb, where there appeared to be nothing out of the ordinary going on.
My plan for the day was to swing by the sale, then head up to my antique mall booth to spend a few hours rearranging inventory and stocking paint. But as I was loading up my few purchases into my van after leaving the sale, this young man, presumably a neighbor, came up to me and started talking. He said, “You want to hear something crazy?” Trying to be friendly, I replied, “Sure.” That’s when he told me that the person in the home of the estate sale had taken their own life.
He spoke it with almost a strange delight on his face, like he was excited about the neighborhood drama. It was really strange. I just told him that was really sad to hear, got in my car, and left.
I couldn’t make it out of the neighborhood though before I had to pull over and stop to process what I had just heard.
When you go to an estate sale, or even when you are looking through things at a flea market, you often don’t get to hear the stories behind the items.
Rarely do you know anything about the person who owned all of these things, the person whose home you are now shopping in. It’s very easy to forget that what you are digging through at one time belonged to a real person with a real story.
I have lost a member of my family to suicide, and it was absolutely terrible. It still is, in fact. The amount of hurt, confusion, frustration, and regret that is left behind when someone takes their life is hard to explain. There is something about knowing that your loved one chose to leave you behind that adds a unique pain to the grief.
I stopped and prayed for the family of this person from the estate sale. I prayed for their comfort, for their grief to find peace in Jesus, and for loving people to come along side of them to walk with them through their loss. Having no idea who this person was, praying was all I could really do.
But as I drove home I realized that I can also write, and share with you all the experience. So instead of heading up to my antique booth as planned, I came back home and am now writing this post. I want to take a minute and remember the person whose home I was in.
By looking at their things, I can tell they loved music and being outdoors. They had a huge record collection and tons of fishing gear in their garage. They also loved things in miniature–dollhouses, Christmas villages, figurines, etc. They were possibly a member of the military at one time, as many military items were on sale in their home. If they were, I thank them for their service. This person loved books, they liked to work in their yard, and they had the biggest coffee mug collection I have ever seen. Maybe they were Chevrolet fans too.
So what is the bigger picture here? What is it that I want myself to remember? It’s simply this–behind each item there was a person and a story. Yes, I sell things, but so much more than that, what I hope to sell is some sort memory. It’s true–you can’t take it with you. One day all the things you have collected, all the things you treasure will either be tossed out or sold away.
What I hope to do is take things that were important to someone once, and find a new person who will also see them as important. To take a 1966 Chevrolet yard stick and try to find someone today who is a devoted Chevy person, and who just might take that yard stick and hang in up in their garage.
Again, rarely do I know who previously owned the items I sell, and so those who buy the items from me won’t ever know either. But what we can know is that it was a real person, with real dreams, real loves, real hurts. And so these things left behind things carry a little bit of that real-ness with them into their new lives. A faint memory of their former owner.
Thank you, readers, for letting me process through this with you. I don’t want to be the kind of person who callously skims over the realities of our hurt, broken world.
I so often do just that though, whether it’s because I’m busy, distracted, or too overwhelmed by all the hurt there is. In my small way I wanted to take a minute today and remember this person’s life. And to remind us all that real life is found in loving those around us, and in cherishing the memories of those we have lost.