A time to sort and a time to linger

My 82-year-old mother-in-law died recently. Those who knew her will miss her smiling ways. She's in a better place now with more to smile about.

I've learned a few things in the wake of her passing. I don't mean to sound crass, but I never knew there was so much to do after someone dies. Maybe you haven't thought much about it either. I don't think many of us like to think about dying.

Did you know there are calls to make to cover hospital and hospice bills? Things to check on at the bank and with insurance policies? Arrangements for burial or cremation? Plans for a memorial service? Things to do to coordinate with family and friends coming in from out of town for a memorial service? Meals together, as time allows? Rides to the airport? Flowers to order for the service?

Someone has to do these things. We were fortunate family and friends helped out with so many details. And Pat's will and pre-arrangement preparations made some of the tasks easier. We were grateful.

And there was still much to do.

At the memorial service, we reflected together on a long and well-lived life now over. Oddly, being together helped fill some of the loss. At least temporarily.

Then there were people to meet. A line of friends and family wanted to say something about Pat's life or share a hug or wipe a tear.  She touched and changed many lives. How could we know we knew so little about her?

Afterwards, my brother-in-law asked, "Why don't we say some of those nice things to one another while we're alive?"

Yes, why don't we? Why don't we look up from the tasks and things that distract us, so we can really see, love and appreciate one another in ways that connect us? Why don't we learn one another's love language and use it while we can?

The pastor expressed hope that people would think to say nice things to one another after something like this.

After a death in the family, time to reflect came in odd moments of the day or night.

But not much time then. Not while people expressed condolences before they returned to their lives.

And not when we went back to the house, her house. For there were things to organize and decide -- possessions, bills, accounts, taxes, probate. What were we to do with all these?

We didn't have all the answers, so we did what we could. And talked with others. And we did it again the next day and the next. We'll do this for as long as it may take. And, we're grateful for the help God provides through the process.

At some point something like this makes us think about dying. We don't like to think about the inevitability. So, we may not take time to prepare, even if it may make it easier for others who will have to sort through the memories and things we leave behind.
When I think about dying, I don't want to leave my things in a mess. Not if I can do something about it. When I look around my home, I see too many things. Everywhere. Too many couches and castoff books. Too many piles of things I meant to file, but didn't. Too many things I meant to donate that clutter our lives. Why is it so hard to carry them out the door?

I don't want things to overrun my life. These things take too much time. I want less of them. Not more. Life is too short to spend on a clutter of things. Surely someone else can use some of them.

More important, there are things I meant to say to those I love. Why do I think there will be time enough later? My priority lists have got to change. Today.

Since people are more important than things, I want to be more intentional in investing in better relationships and memories. I want to drive more for visits to a hospital or living room, invited or not. I want to write more notes, send more cards and timely gifts. I want to be proactive to share various ways of saying "I love you."

By God's grace, I hope some relics of these acts of love will endure if only as a good memory. Some things are more than things.

Yesterday morning, I asked for wisdom on what to keep and what to let go, where to help with another's burdens and where to carry and organize my own. As is his custom, Mater curled up in my lap. He's seldom invited, but always welcome. We spent a few moments of purry contentment together before I got to work. All those things could wait. Again. For, even if I can't get everything organized right away, or ever, or do all the things on my to do list, I want to savor time with this sweet cat. Life is too short not to.

How about you? What memories, things or legacy do you want to leave others?


  1. Connie, sorry for your loss, yet rejoicing with you for your MIL's moving day to heaven.

    We've been through the same situations, feelings,thoughts, etc. when an elderly loved one leaves this earth. It does remind us of our frailness and short time here. We sometimes get lost in the gathering and accumulation of goods, competition, and daily grind. Someone close to us passing jolts us out of a self-absorbed 'dreamwalk', encouraging us to love and live like Jesus.

    Thanks for sharing this real-life example and reminding us to 'openly love one another' while there is still time.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Donna. Live like Jesus...yes.

  3. So sorry for your loss, and I know it is very hard to say goodbye to someone we love. Your words are beautiful and filled with wisdom. I was also challenged in a similar way after my father passed away last year. Thanks for the beautiful reminder to remain focused on what is really important in life.

  4. Thank you.
    I'm sorry for your loss, Janet. Thanks for sharing.


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