How Much Did He Leave?

Helen was a wonderful, loving, second wife to my grandfather, but she had a problem. She couldn’t let go of things, and by the time Papa died, they had three houses full of stuff. You could barely navigate through the home they lived in because it was packed with books, papers, knickknacks, and who knows what else.

Papa loved horses and always wanted to visit the bluegrass country of Kentucky. Helen loved him and decided they would drive there to fulfill Papa’s dream. When they looked at a map, Helen realized they would have to cross the Mississippi River, so she bought an eight-man rubber raft and stowed it in the trunk, “Just in case the bridge is out.” I’ve had many laughs imagining the two of them arriving at the Mississippi only to discover their worst fear had been realized. The river was above flood stage, and the bridge had been washed away. Everyone else was turned back, but Papa and Helen pumped up their raft and began rowing across the raging river. People look on with wonder as the two eighty-year-olds, paddles pumping furiously, cross to the other side and walk on to Kentucky.

Before I begin judging Helen, I need to look at my own life. Do I own my things, or do my things own me? Are your closets bursting with clothes because someday, “I’ll fit back into them!” Why are you hanging on to those eight-tracks, 8-inch floppy disks, magazines, and newspapers? It reminds me of the old question following the funeral, “How much did he leave behind?”

“All of it.”

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