Is it Really Just Stuff?

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I open my armoire, a gift from James many years ago. It holds not exquisite jewelry, but treasures none-the-less. The first drawer contains two earrings with no match and another pair from my mother with the dangly part missing and other jewelry, all costume. Every so often I go through the drawers, certain I’ll find a match for the earrings or be able to part with something.

As I stand there, my eyes veer over to my Bible, a treasure for sure. A gift from James the Christmas of 1994, it holds my prayers and notes I’ve written, inspired by God’s Holy Word. 

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I think of the folks in California dealing with the fires. Forty-two dead and thousands of homes and businesses destroyed. Then there’s the people who lost so much in the floods and winds of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. I think of what people always say. “My family and I are safe. We lost everything, but it’s just stuff. It can be replaced.” But can it?

I go through the next two drawers in my armoire: Identification badges from hospitals where I worked, my nurses and critical care pins, an expired Castner Knott credit card, and a ton of Boy Scout merit badge cards.

None of us wants to be thought of as materialistic, but I think there’s a difference between stuff and things of sentimental value. I’m emotionally attached to many things in my home that could never be replaced such as the chenille bedspread that once covered my grandmother’s bed.

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And the piano my parents gave me on my twelfth birthday.

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Another drawer down in my armoire are snippets of fur from our deceased border collie, Cuteles and our rescue cat, Alley who lived only fifteen months (feline leukemia) and never weighed over five pounds, both precious to us. 

I think of the recipe for fruit cake handwritten in 1976 by a dear friend. She’s gone now, but when I make the cake it’s like she’s right there, reminding me, don't forget to dust the pecans in flour so they'll be distributed throughout the cake evenly.

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Lower still in my armoire are a few baby teeth and swatches of hair from my children and grandchildren. There’s a huge bubble gum ring from my oldest son. A prize for sure. I still see his little fingers grasping it, offering it to me, certain I’d never get another gift that fine. There’s homemade bracelets, all presented to me with smiling faces and bright eyes. Precious.

I think of our family portrait and two paintings my mother did for me - all meaningful and irreplaceable. 

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There’s my dad’s barber license and three unique gifts I keep in my office, one from each of my children. Not expensive, but gifts designed or bought specifically for me. They hold meaning and I treasure them.

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In the next to the lowest drawer of my armoire I pick up three 1993 Opryland season passes. The park is gone now, bulldozed down and replaced by Opry Mills Mall. And we’re older. Much older.

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I think about the pictures the disaster victims lost and think of my stacks of picture books and thousands more stored on my computer. What pleasure I get from flipping through pictures of family and friends and places we've visited. How I’d hate to lose them and everything I’ve written and continue to write, all stored on my computer. And there’s more, so much more, not to mention the things dear to James within the walls of our home.             

I conclude looking through my armoire, the same as always, without finding the dangly piece to the earrings Mom bought me in Alaska. Why do I hang onto the broken or half-set things? Why is our home filled with items of low monetary value and high in sentimental value? Isn’t it just stuff? Not in my opinion. It’s the real treasures of life. Stuff is our latest wide-screen TV. It’s what closets and drawers are packed with that we thought we wanted and then didn’t. It’s the functional items with which we prepare and serve meals.     

I wonder what treasures those in the fires and hurricanes lost. We hear, stuff can be replaced. It’s the lives that are important. Of course the lives hold the place of highest value. We want to save them above all. But there will be mourning over sentimental things lost to the storms and fires.

A man interviewed on TV held up a ring with a red stone. He found it intact in his mother’s burned out home, the one thing she desperately wanted. Was it a gift from her husband? Her mother’s engagement ring? Perhaps an heirloom passed down many generations? The story brought tears to my eyes. Think of all the cherished pieces lost in the fires, floods and winds never to be held and treasured again.

Let’s remember the victims, pray for their families and be thankful for those who survived. But remember, they lost more than material items, they lost tangible memories, things they could touch and step back in time to a special occasion, a loved one. Lives can’t be replaced, but neither can those treasures.   

Tell me about something precious you own, a treasure you'd hate to lose.

Written by Linda Sawyer