Afterlife Messages

by 19melissa68

Sixteen bags of garbage.  Oh, excuse me. It wasn’t garbage. It was all stuff that would come in handy someday.

That’s what we found when I helped my neighbor clean out her mother’s house. Forty years of saving  stick-on bows, aluminum pans, and extra sets of dishes.  My neighbor had wheedled and cajoled, trying to get a head start and purge the place before her mother passed.  But the old matriarch wasn’t interested, waving a hand away and saying, “I don’t have the energy, honey.  Do it after I’m gone.”

Mostly the bags were filled with garbage we’d found festooned between financial papers and coupons that had expired in ’92.  But there was one rare find.

by Muffett

A box. Inside were love letters between my friend’s mother and father during the war. And home-made cards she’d  crayola’d  as a kid.  She held in her hands the knittings of her family’s love that had made it all the way into the future.

Things have changed.  We rarely write letters on paper anymore. I love getting them, but I’m guilty about not writing.  Instead I use technology. That’s why a recent news article popped a light bulb over my noggin.

Some families are bemoaning the privacy policies of internet sites.  If you use on-line bill

pay, internet banking, or communicate with e-mails, those accounts aren’t accessible to heirs after you die.  Your Facebook, Pinterest, or Google account can be shut down with the proper certificates, approved paperwork and sometimes legal wrangling, but you don’t have access to content.  For example, if nothing is done, those e-bills will go on forever, piling up in the deceased’s Yahoo mail, but the family won’t know anything about it because they can’t access the account.

This is birthing new legislation, but for now, attorneys are recommending leaving a list of usernames and passwords (and instructions) with your will.  EX:  Download the family pictures and delete Vegas Weekend pictures from PhotoBucket.

But I had a better idea for this man-made perpetuity.

With a little creative scheduling, I could blog far into the future, even though I’d actually be singing in the heavenly choir.  Long after I’m gone I could wish the kids Happy Birthday each year. I could schedule posts 50 years from now to nag my great-great something-or-others into doing better in school, getting  jobs, or going to church more often.   Messages from beyond the grave.

When I shared this with the kids, they shrugged, telling me technology would change by then.  Besides, they’d prefer I leave a letter.  Something they could hold.  A missive with my funny-looking Rs and loopy Ys. A note that crinkles and makes noise when folded and refolded. Maybe even one that carries a scent.

I know what they mean. I love holding my Dad’s teensy-tiny Bible. He rarely talked about his beliefs, but I learned so much from the underlined passages and notes he made in the margins.

Things change. Things stay the same. So I’ll write my afterlife messages in a letter.  And I plan on passing it along in my Dad’s tiny-little Bible. Now if I could just figure out how to add the scent of homemade bread.

28 thoughts on “Afterlife Messages

  1. When my dad died in 1999, my sister and I helped our mother get rid of things so she could go into a retirement center. My mother was Luthern – Missouri, by God! – and also a child of the Depression, so she saved the *weirdest* stuff. Lynn and I were able to give each of our children a copy of the Woman’s Day magazine from the month they were born, AND we came home with copies of the income tax papers for the years we were born. (My dad earned $3,000 in 1942.) My father was an Episcopal priest, so we moved a lot and she paid good money to lug this stuff all over the country. When my mother died, we had to clean her apartment – a bag of Food Lion savings stamps (there were no Food Lion stores in Maryland then), a 1950s crinoline petticoat, and a coiled garden hose. Beats me. She lived on the third floor. Magazines, newspapers, unlabeled photos. It does put the fear of God in you though. I hope I don’t leave such a mess for my own kids!

  2. What a beautiful post and it certainly gives me a lot to think about–I may just start those letters right now. Like you, I love receiving snail mail, but it is hard to make yourself sit down and write letters. Thanks for this

  3. Interesting perspective. You might freak out your future decendants.
    It’s hard to believe that others can’t get hold of this information after the loved one deceases. i can’t imagine that won’t change soon.

  4. This certainly is a lovely post. Just how do we pass anything on to our children, great grand-children, etc. There comes a point in time where I suppose we have to leave it to their desire to know who that funny person was in their family tree that gave them their nose, or their eyes, or their freckles, or their desire to paint, or play the violin. It’s a bit like getting to know GOD… you can’t do it until there is that desire to do it… to find out the mystery… And that in the nutshell is what our life is… a mystery letter written by GOD. Only those who love can read it!

    • Smart gal. Think of all the passcodes we have to remember: PIN numbers, locker numbers, SSN, Driver’s license….it used to be a simpler world. Sigh.

  5. What an inspiring post! I’m so glad you stopped over at my blog for Ice Cream Month else how would I have “met” you:)

    Although I get haunted by companies trying to send bills via email, I haven’t signed up for any yet. However, you do make some rather valid points and yes, food for thought. Cherished letters are “recipes” of the past and when they aren’t labeled or noted it’s next to impossible to gather the ingredients to pass along to others.

    Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts, I really enjoyed reading this with my morning coffee.

    P.S. I have some fabulous Lutheran Church Cookbooks:)

    • Please crack them open and start cooking. Then send the treats to me so I can field test them. Things expire and i wouldn’t want you eating anything that’s not wonderful.

  6. Lovely post and I empathise completely with what you write. I would add that it is important to talk to parents while they are alive, and grandparents and anyone else you can connect with. Memories are lost, links to the past are lost. Photographs are nothing without the backstory.
    When my mother died, there were lots of photos of people I didn’t know, several with my parents or grandparents on, one included me.
    Only it could not possibly be me. The dress was World War 1, my grandparents were just young things and that bridesmaid is far too old to have been my mother. Yet the girl looks exactly like me. Who was she? I have no idea. And there is no one left to ask.

    • Pat, what a quinky dink that you mention this because I just had a picture in my hand last night and I was asking the same questions. When I was younger, I didn’t care about all that “old stuff.” Now that I’ve notched a bit more wisdom, there’s no one left to ask…as you say. Good advice.

  7. What a great post. My aunt had the same thing after my grandparents died. I spent a number of weekends helping her out and while my grandparents didn’t hoard, they had a lot of stuff that hadn’t been needed for years – checks back to the 1950′s, old payroll records, and boxes of receipts. We shredded bags and bags of stuff.

    I did come home with a pretty pristine set of my own report cards from grade school and some photo albums of trips that my family had taken with my grandparents. My cousins got the photo albums of their own trips with our grandparents.

    Thanks for visiting my blog! I found the name of your blog hilarious as I did grow up Lutheran. There is definitely a culture around that. I love the Lutheran joke books in the stores – they are so true.

    • So now…all you have to do is spend some time labeling those books. I’m trying to convince myself to get a better scanner and spend time digitilizing (is that a word?) all the photos (along with descriptions) to create a family archive. As for Lutherans, I’m so glad to be part of a group who can laugh at themselves.

  8. We had the same problem with my mother. She was a hoarder I think it was because she went through the Great Depression. We found some letters from my father to my mother written during the war so that was wonderful. Unfortunately we didn’t find any from my mother to my father. It would have been great to be able to read the two of them. Thank you so much for liking my blog
    I am a follower of yours now and looking forward to your next post.
    Happy Blogging cheers Judy 🙂

    • Judy, you’re too kind. I only post every 10 days. I figure people are busy and have better things to do than read my lastest hiccup on change.
      Speaking of letters….are we all seeing a trend here?
      Fascinating, huh? Only the letters from father to Mother seemed to survive. That means mother kept letters, but father didn’t. It seems to be a man trend. Hmmm…that could probably be a whole post right there.

      • Yes it is a shame as you only have half the story. I often wondered if my mother threw them away or my father did. Mum might have thought they were too personal or something. Though to be honest I don’t think she ever threw anything away. Took my sister and her husband and my husband and myself two weeks to clean out her house. It’s going to be hard for historians in the future because they rely heavily on letters to get an idea of the person and the times. I wonder if they will be able to do that with letters. Maybe the blogs are the answer. 🙂

    • Oh, Kathy. How insightful of you. I pay a toll each time I help a friend with end of life treasures. We’re sifting through hopes, tragedy and pieces of life abused by treating them as though they were everyday and would last forever. I come away from helping rich with writer’s stories and heartbroken from holding pieces of life. I suppose that’s why “change” is a theme in all my stories.

  9. My mom, too, saves everything. She grew up in the Depression and it is impossible to change her way of thinking. Last year, though she had to part with a lot of her stuff due to mold/mildew issues in her basement. It had to be done for her health.

    As for those letters, your friend found, what a treasure. I’ve saved the letters my husband and I exchanged while we were dating. My mom is a journal keeper and someday I hope to inherit 50-plus years of notebooks she’s filled. But I can wait. No hurry for me to possess those journals.

    • You know…many journal keepers are writers. So it’ll be exciting to know what hidden stories are within the pages of those wonderful journals. This will be great and I hope you’ll share pieces of those hard times and history. I’d like to read the stories.

      • I’m uncertain how many actual stories I’ll discover in my mom’s writing. The journals I’ve seen were more basic factual info about the weather or what was done on the farm or if she had company. But you never know what surprises await me as I have not seen her journals in decades.

  10. How well I remember cleaning my mother’s house after her passing. Living through the Depression prompted her to save a lot of items (bread sacks, aluminum trays from TV dinners (some plastic ones, too), margarine tubs, and magazines (yikes, the stacks of magazines). Yet, when I found treasures (photos, letters, newspaper clippings, and hand-written recipes on the back of childhood drawings) they brought me to my knees to thank the Lord for the wonderful gifts my mother left.

    I tried to prompt my family to hand-write a letter in place of a gift last Christmas. I wrote a letter containing specific memories to each of them and received only one (my niece) in return. I’ll treasure her letter and the love it contains.

    • The depression carved some deep ruts into lives. My grandparents saved everything after starving and gettin blown by the dust bowl. They even saved bent nails, because hard times could return.
      Nancy, I hope you do the handwriteten gift letter again. Maybe we can start a movement. It’s a wonderful idea. Even if folks only wrote one letter. Don’t you think?

  11. I completely agree with Dee. I have been digitizing/blogging the letters my grandfather wrote to my grandmother in the year they were courting–1915-1916. They are a treasure, and I am glad my grandmother saved them. If only the ones she wrote him had survived!
    I also am guilty of not writing, but I think I will have to change that…

    • When you say you’re digitizing, do you mean you’re scanning them to have a digital copy or you’re blogging them? Both are nifty ways of archiving family tresures. Yes,it would’ve been great to have had both sides of the romance recorded. Now…about those handwritten Christmas letters…..

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