Our Inheritance

old pics

Someone is going to go through all your things someday. Every drawer will be opened.  Every cabinet will be emptied onto the counter.  The contents of your garage (yes, even the ugly Christmas decorations you haven’t used for years) will all be laid bare.  I know this firsthand.

Mama died quickly of a rare brain virus almost two years ago.  Though heartbreaking for the rest of us, that was the gift she had always wanted.  The gift of never getting old or sick.  She enthusiastically cooked for the church potluck one day and was in heaven two weeks later. Daddy also was in good health.  Tragically, he died in a car accident on April 7th.

Unlocking the door of their house on the evening of April 7th I experienced one of the saddest moments of my life.  Daddy’s prescription medicines were still laid out on the table beside his recliner.  Mama’s clean and organized kitchen, bathed in absolute silence.  They were gone.  Both of them.  Phil and I walked slowly through the house, quietly and reverently at first as though we were in a museum or at a funeral.  Silence was broken only when we both started laughing about Daddy’s old navy blue recliner.   If recliners could talk, this one could have hosted a podcast.  They could have easily replaced the old recliner with a brand new one, but they didn’t.  That wasn’t their way.  They always had $1000 or two available to give to someone in need, but they couldn’t bear to replace the old recliner.  A beautiful way to live.

For more than a month now, we’ve been emptying drawers.  Meticulously going through closets.  Pulling boxes from the garage.  Making decisions.  What to give away.  What to keep.  What to sell.  To be honest, the average burglar would be highly disappointed with the contents of Mama and Daddy’s house.  An old Mr. Coffee.  Walmart bookshelves filled with good books.  The ceramic dog bookends Mama bought the year she turned ten.  Great Aunt Nellie’s gaudy earrings.  Aunt Lucille’s recipe book.  A lifetime supply of soap and toilet paper.

They had filing cabinets filled with organized pictures.  Family Christmas programs Mama wrote, to be performed by the grandkids and great grandkids.  Desk drawers filled with buttons, markers, pencils, and every kind of school supply known to man.  Granny’s old lamp.  My grandfather’s school bell that faithfully called children into a one room schoolhouse nearly a century ago.  A long wooden dining room table, worn around the edges…a place where thousands (no exaggeration) have sat and been fed and loved by my parents.  A few blue striped towels folded neatly in the bathroom closet.  Expensive pots and pans Daddy bought Mama for Christmas in ‘74.   Beautiful tablecloths folded neatly in the china cabinet.  To most people, my parents left absolutely nothing of consequence behind.  To us, they left an irreplaceable inheritance.


In one drawer, I found several lined notebooks full of scripture my mom had written out over a period of years.  A few times she would pen a question after a particularly poignant passage.  “How can I love people better?”  I whispered through tears, “You loved people beautifully, Mama.”

mom scripture


We found one file folder full of letters they received from prisoners with whom they corresponded.  One box contained literally thousands of thank you notes that always began something like, “You can’t know how much your kindness meant to me during this particular time of suffering.”  OR “We were shocked to receive your financial gift and encouraging letter in the mail.”  Files of pictures from mission trips at home and abroad.  One picture stands out in my mind.  Mama and Daddy smiling, covered in mud, using buckets to clean out a lady’s basement after a flood in Iowa.  I remember them telling this particular story.  The older lady came down the stairs and asked, “Why in the world would you do this?  You don’t even know me.”  Mama and Daddy replied, “Because Jesus loves you.  And we do too.”

In order to preserve our family history, over the last month, Phil has scanned more than 6000 pictures.  Several of the yellowing photos were housed in those horrible “sticky cling wrap” photo albums of the 70’s.  Those albums contained the childhood my brother and I were blessed to share.  Every new puppy.  Every Christmas at Granny and Pappa’s farm.  Every barefoot summer.

I spent one afternoon last week just sitting in the garage, reading my parents’ love letters from the 50’s.  Daddy couldn’t spell.  Mama made nearly all A’s in college.  But it was a perfect match.  Daddy, not being known for his writing ability, once wrote, “I have nothing to say.  But I think about you always.  I’ll love you forever.”

Mama and Daddy’s house is under contract now.  In a few weeks, the papers will all be signed and their earthly possessions properly distributed.  Hopefully, we will have the garage cleaned out by then and the last bit of furniture will be given away to a college student or young family.  A few times I’ve had to make hard decisions and throw away something I desperately wanted to keep.  There simply isn’t enough room in our house to keep every scrap of paper or every sentimental object.  One afternoon, I had a good cry as I threw away a box full of thank you notes they had received.  I wiped my tears, and said, “God, their generosity was to Christ’s glory.  It need not be preserved on this side of eternity.  Give us the grace to carry that generosity forward.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

And that is what they both would have wanted.  They would want us to throw away what needed to be thrown away without reservation.  They’d want us to keep the things we could use or the things we treasured.  They’d be happy for us to give away what needed to be given away with great joy.  But most of all?  Most of all, they’d want us to get the job done well and get on with the ministry at hand.

When we lock the door for the last time, there will be tears.  The end of an era.  No more Christmas programs in their living room.  No more dinners around their worn wooden table.  Their life and ministry is complete and they are now rejoicing in heaven, along with my brother and many believers who have gone on before.  They no longer care whether we cleaned the house well for the new owners (but yes, Mama, we did).  And as I walk down that sidewalk for the final time, I have a feeling I’ll hear Mama and Daddy’s voices loud and clear.  “Jesus loves you.  And we do too.”


Golden Summer 2016 B