As I go through the process of cleaning out Nana's house, I look around at all the stuff that's accumulated during her almost 93 years and I think about the meaning of it all. On one level, it's all stuff. Some of it has some financial worth, but most of it can only be valued in sentiment. But on another level, all the stuff she's collected represents her lifetime of dreams. Dreams not only for herself, but also for her children and grandchildren.
I've looked through old photo albums and scrapbooks and seen her pride in my mom's and uncle's accomplishments. I've read through the letters she sent to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson after my grandfather died in 1961 attempting to get a mistake about my grandfather's VA benefits (and subsequent benefits for Nana) corrected. I've read letters she wrote to my mom and uncle later in life telling them of her unconditional love and letters she wrote to Dave and me telling us how proud she was of our accomplishments and her hopes for us. I've flipped through the well-worn pages of her Bible knowing that she turned to it nightly for comfort, inspiration, and life's answers. I've found boxes of my baby clothes (many of which she made)she carefully preserved in hopes my daughter would wear them someday. I found the blanket that kept me warm in my crib when I first came home from the hospital (and initially tossed it in the charity box, but then got sentimental and saved it). I've walked through her childhood in Mississippi with her sisters through pictures and diaries. The house itself is the culmination of a lifelong dream. She built it in 1969 from her life savings. The stories I've heard say she would come over after work once the frame was built and hang sheets where she wanted the internal walls to be located. There probably weren't too many other women who were designing and building their own homes. I've held the dress she wore to my parents' wedding in 1970 in awe of just how exquisite it was. She was so proud to walk her daughter down the aisle. I found a silk sari a friend had custom made for Nana in Fiji. Mom didn't even know of its existence. I also found half a dozen quilts Nana hand sewed and felt the care, hope and love she sewed into each stitch.
Sure, it's just stuff, but it all represents a life well lived. She may not have been rich in a financial sense, but she lived life on her terms with love and a never-ending faith in everyone and achieved most, if not all, of her dreams. That makes her wealthy in my book. I hope that when I pass away, whomever is charged with dividing up my personal belongings can say that about me.