I’ve been thinking about the recent yard sale at my neighbors house. It wasn’t the usual baby furniture, and old clothes for sale. There were items collected over a lifetime going for bargain prices. My neighbor was spared the pain of seeing her possessions carted off by strangers. Alzheimer’s stole her mind ultimately forcing her family to put her in a nursing home.
There was something different in the sons eyes when he told me his mom’s fate. It may have been the kind of sadness a child has when they realize their beloved parent no longer recognizes them.
I scanned the tables set up under the carport as people passed with arms full of bargains.
There were odd shaped serving dishes stacked on one corner. I thought they must have looked lovely on her party table. I wondered how many times had she used the Christmas china also for sale? I walked into the storage and shop area off the carport. It was where her late husband kept all his carpentry tools. It was a hobby he enjoyed after retirement. The room was mostly bare.
I remembered the patio furnished with cushioned lounge chairs was always surrounded by a beautiful garden with blooming flowers and lush foliage. On this day the patio was in disarray. The garden was overgrown with weeds. An angel statue covered in dark mold in the middle of the yard was barely visible through the tall grass.
Inside the house there were prices taped to everything. Sofas, tables, lamps, pictures, books. Yard sale prices on items I’d seen on late night infomercials and resisted the temptation to buy. I couldn’t bring myself to purchase anything here either.
During one of my rare visits to the house I remember my neighbor told me her husband had built the entertainment center in the family room. It was made of birchwood from the floor to the ceiling, with beautiful detail carvings.
A set of white ceramic deer figurines rested on one shelf. As I made my way toward them for a closer look a woman picked up the largest figure and turned it over. She announced the price to her husband, $3.00 then stuffed the figurine along with the others in a box she was carrying.
There is an old clique, “You can’t take it with you.” I realize it’s not just death that can strip us of all the items purchased over a lifetime. Sickness, or a sudden shift in the economy can also separate us from our property small and great.
It’s no surprise many of the world’s major religions share a common teaching on the ephemeral nature of material possessions. Christians are reminded, “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Through meditation Buddhist come to see contentment is not achieved through the accumulation of many possessions. Hindus believe body, mind, and even material possessions are all transient and subject to change.
Relationships change too, but they’re also more flexible, which makes them more enduring. So if you notice me showering my friends and family with hugs and words of thanks, it’s just my way of showing appreciation for my most valuable possessions. The things in life that can’t be bought or sold.