There is a street in town that I drive down every day. Twice in fact . . . once going to work and once going home. And even though it isn’t a very long street, it’s long enough to have seen a great deal of activity lately, unfortunately most of it not so great.
On this particular day I was following my usual route . . . turn off Wayne Road at the light, turn left at the next intersection, through the first stop sign and then the second, right again and right once more. Only this time, approximately half way to my destination, I caught sight of a box truck . . . a U-Haul backed under the carport of a woman I knew. A teacher I had known for years. One who had recently left this world for better plains.
Stacked around the carport and behind the ramp of the truck were boxes, all shapes and sizes, packed with what I knew were her personal belongings, those material possessions whose presence she had lived in over the last years of her life. And now here they were, things that meant something to her, destined for new homes, hopefully to live with other members of the family or at least with people who would appreciate and care for them as she had. The physical and historical connections might not be there, but perhaps they could continue to provide joy to someone else.
That evening, as I made my way home, I looked again at the carport . . . the now barren carport that showed no signs of the day’s activity. The curtains no longer graced the windows and a broom leaned against the wall of the house, proof it had been cleaned and swept in preparation for its new occupants, whoever they might be, whenever they might arrive. And the whole scene reminded me of an episode of Murder, She Wrote entitled “Death Takes a Curtain Call”. William Conrad is filling the role of Major Anatole Karzof of the KGB. He and Jessica Fletcher stand side by side in a poorly lit room as an officer empties the contents of a manila envelope onto a desk—the personal belongings of Russian security officer Serge Berensky who was killed as the two Russian ballet dancers he was guarding defected. As they look upon these possessions taken from his body and bagged as evidence, Karzof observes, “Isn’t it sad how a man’s whole life can be reduced to a pile of trinkets.”
Although that line sounds terribly philosophical, I’m not at all certain it’s terribly accurate. Can anyone’s life really be reduced to their material possessions, no matter how great or how small their value might be? We should be defined by far more than our wealth—or lack thereof—but unfortunately that isn’t always the case.
Although the very nice person I referenced in the opening of this post owned a houseful of stuff, that’s not what her family will remember. It isn’t what her friends will picture when her name is mentioned. And it most certainly isn’t what will come to mind when her former students recall their classroom days. What they will remember is the person she was and how she impacted their lives . . . and it simply is not possible to pack that kind of legacy into a box.
About the author: Lisa Shackelford Thomas is a fourth generation member of a family that’s been in funeral service since 1926. She has been employed at Shackelford Funeral Directors in Savannah, Tennessee for over 40 years and currently serves as the manager there. Any opinions expressed here are hers and hers alone, and may or may not reflect the opinions of other Shackelford family members or staff.