Friday, November 08, 2013

Leaving Stuff - Treasure or Burden?

Memories and time seem to compress as you get older.  Or maybe it is just that in retirement, I get enough sleep to sweep out my brain, something researchers at the University of Rochester reported last month will consolidate memories.

One of those memories that I recall whenever I stop in Sioux City, Iowa to gas-up on cross country trips, is of the horrific crash there of United Flight 232’s DC 10 during an emergency landing just weeks after I relocated to Durham, North Carolina to jump-start our community marketing agency.

Next summer, author and essayist Laurence Gonzales will publish an account of that crash that is sure to be excellent entitled Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and SurvivalI’m usually a fan of his writing but I couldn’t disagree more with an essay he published in this month’s Rotarian magazine.

Entitled “The Things We Leave Behind", Gonzales makes the case that leaving our stuff behind when we die is a burden to loved ones.  I can see the point that these artifacts, mementos, photographs and papers should be well organized, preened and put in context, but I disagree that they are a burden.01636_p_aaeuyfyqe0741

After carefully storing them during my earlier years, my parents inexplicably discarded several things over the years that would be priceless to me now.

They included a trunk with my father’s WWII army uniform and his high school lettermen’s sweaters and an incredible collection of hundreds of 78 RPM records from the 1930s and 40s.

In 1980, during my stint in Anchorage, Alaska before coming to Durham in 1989, I destroyed several packets of letters that my first wife and I had exchanged to each other.  Made in haste, It was an emotional gesture to relieve the pain and toward moving on but the correspondence would have been priceless now to our grown daughter.

Thankfully, one or two survived.

Since retirement several years ago, I’ve taken a few breaks from writing Bull City Mutterings to organize the artifacts I will leave behind.  Each pass is an improvement.  They include a few things left to my parents by my grandparents that were eventually passed to me.

I so wish there had been more.00083_p_aaeuyfyqe0638_z

Especially with photographs, the archeology inherent is often far more important than the primary subjects in the photographs when they were taken.

For example, the two shown in this blog are important because they also show things that no longer exist, e.g. my pass-me-down first horse Gypsy, the old miniature covered wagon used on cattle roundups and the old horse barn.  But it is important that I leave captions behind with these photos, especially on digitally archived versions.

The photographs taken of my grandparents, great grandparent, great-great grandparents and great-great-great grandparents are definitely not a burden to leave for my grandsons and my daughter, they are a treasure beyond compare.

Even when not of personal value, the stuff we leave behind may be important to local community history museums and other historic sites.

It isn’t that hard to distinguish “stuff” from items that may be rare artifacts from a bygone era, like my dad’s leather “Ashton Huskies” football helmet that disappeared.

Leaving stuff behind can be priceless gift.

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