Why Do We Grasp for Dead People’s Possessions?

I never understood why, when someone dies, people flock to the scene to claim possession of the trinkets of the deceased.  I just don’t get it.

I remember when my grandmother died and four people were fighting for her punch bowl.  A fucking punch bowl!  When the hell are you ever going to need a punch bowl?  Is there a Happy Days-themed prom you’re expecting to have at your house?

“Oh, it’s a family heirloom.”  From the old English, “loom”, meaning tool.  And heir, of course meaning, the next family member to lay rightful claim to that “tool”.  A punch bowl.

I’ve heard the argument that “it’s” something to remember them by.  Um, if you need a tool to remember them, then I’m guessing they didn’t mean much to you in life and if that’s the case, why do you want to remember them now?  By the way, Walmart sells punch bowls. I don’t know why, but they do.

For many years, following my father’s passing, his brother believed that my dad threw away their mother’s pocket bible.  Maybe he did.  No one knows.  No one.  He couldn’t let go of this.  Still hasn’t.

Maybe two or three times a year, we’d talk for a few minutes on the phone and no matter what the conversation was about, he’d have to mention it.  “Your dad threw away your grandmother’s pocket bible.”

Okay, so what do you want me to do about that?  It was always an accusatory tone and it got old very quickly.  He was blaming my deceased dad for something he may not have even done.  My uncle wanted that pocket bible as if his life wouldn’t be truly complete without it.  He’d never find contentment without fulfilling this attachment.

No Santosha without Aparigraha.  Just sayin’.  

It’s just a book!  A very small, mass-manufactured version of the bible by some now-defunct corporate publisher.  It’s nothing.  God, however anyone wants to define “God”, is NOT in that book.  My grandmother is not in that book.  It’s just words on cheap paper.  He’s clinging to this object as if it’s some kind of talisman.

And then, this happened.

A few weeks back, I was cleaning out our garage and came across a box of old photos from my parents.  As I was going through it, I found a pocket bible.  On the back, inside cover, was my grandmother’s maiden name and signed by her.  “I found it!”  I put it in a cinch bag with a note to my uncle and mailed it to the other side of the country.

And … nothing.  No call.  No message.  Two weeks went by.  No response whatsoever.

Out of concern and to make sure it arrived, my wife called him.  Yep, he got it.  He was quick, because he was busy, but said, “That’s not the bible.  Bob (my dad) threw away the one I’m talking about.”

Okay then.  And that was pretty much the end of the conversation.  No thanks for the thought or anything like that.  Not that I need thanks or appreciation to validate what I did, but still.  You know what I mean.  Maybe acknowledgment; I don’t know.

So, I don’t do the anger thing.  Maybe I’m weird, but I don’t hold grudges or get angry with things like this.  Grudges are heavy, weighing like sandbags on our shoulders.  I don’t want to be hunched over when I’m 100.

I do get disappointed though.  Hey, I’m human.  But, this wasn’t even disappointment for me.  It was a realization about my “relationship” with my uncle.  There really isn’t one.  He doesn’t know me, nor I him, really.

While I don’t misplace value in inanimate objects, like a punch bowl or pocket bible, I do value people and the relationships I have with them.  My fathers efforts, hard work, tolerance, wisdom, and guidance he provided on my behalf is what I value.  I can never forget that.  Possessing his microwave isn’t going to keep him with me.  Like, every time I make popcorn, I would feel his presence.  No, I sold his microwave to help pay for hospice.

Anyways, the value my uncle places in this book and the negativity associated with its mysterious disappearance, permeated whatever little contact we had.  Ugh.

And for that reason, I’m out.  Sometimes, you just have to give the microwave away, because its too heavy to keep moving around.  Besides, I make my popcorn on the stove top.

Peace.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

In the Face of Nostalgia and Regret

“Nostalgia is a seductive liar.” – George Ball

It’s been my experience thus far, that some of the most unhappy people live nostalgically.  Nothing wrong with visiting, but many among us try to live there.  They remember and talk of the past as if it was some magical place; a half-smile with a distant stare.  Meanwhile, they’re missing the Now, where life is happening.

Seeing things nostalgically thirty or so years after the fact, can look like a Hollywood movie.  The problem is that our mind remembers not so much what, but how it wants to remember.  The past isn’t real.  Not now.  It was, when it was Now, but now it’s just a memory.  We filter out the circumstances that were in play at that time, including our own motivations, thought process, values, beliefs, psychology, relationships, and a million other things, including all the bad parts.

Billy Joel is singing, “The good ole days weren’t always good and the future ain’t as bad as it seems.”

The popular story-line lately, about how people on their death bed regret, not so much the things they did, but the things they didn’t do.  Like it’s supposed to be motivational, right?  Inspiring?  As if, by hearing these stories, we’ll quit our job, sell our shit, and tour the world with a backpack.

But, we don’t.  Why?  Because for 99% of us, it doesn’t make any fucking sense.  It may sound romantic, but it’s not really what we want, nor need.  So, we don’t do it.

Because what happens?  What; one day we’re on our deathbed regretting what we didn’t do and say to some young soul, “My biggest regret is that I didn’t leave society to homestead in northern Alaska”?  “I didn’t quit that six figure job to volunteer in a third-world country.”  “I never bought that Ferrari.”  Okay, that’s a bad example.  You really should have bought that Ferrari.  What’s a matter with you?!  Life is short!

Nostalgia can suck, but so does regret.  So … we didn’t do that thing, even though we thought we wanted to at the time and now, we regret it.  No.  We didn’t do it for all the reasons we didn’t and never did and that is that.  Remember?

How about this: Santosha, the Niyama of contentment.  It’s not about how things should be or shouldn’t have been.  It’s about how things are and complete acceptance of our truth as it is here, in the now.  Once we acknowledge that, it’s up to us to figure out what we’re going to do or not and then do it.  Or not.  No regrets.

I’m in love with the idea of climbing Mount Everest.  These men and women; the Sherpas, the stories, the TV shows and movies.  It’s such an amazing thing, I can see myself doing that.  I’m not doing that.  I’m not, because from what I understand, it’s a bit chilly there and I could lose my fingers, lose $100,000 and/or die.  At the most basic level it would be quite selfish and irresponsible.  I don’t need something like that to feel good about being human; to feel … complete.  I will never regret not climbing Everest.  I am content with that.

I’m content with most things.  Some things I’m not and that’s on me.  Perfectly normal, by the way.  So I’m content with some of my discontent.  Something to work on.

And … until I buy that Ferrari, I’m content with browsing and the process of the journey.

Cheers.

Photo by Matt Antonioli on Unsplash