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That Stuff May Be Useful Someday

I helped my 10-year-old friend clean and organize her room. As she lobbied to keep a shoe that was about to fall apart, I saw shades of myself in her. And a characteristic of my mother.

Her name, which I’m withholding, means moonlight. So I’ll call her Moonlight. An artist, Moonlight saw value in things that might be useful someday.

That shoe? Its unique straps could be saved. I don’t know what for, but I looked at them through her eyes. Maybe, I thought, they’d get a second life in a piece of art.


The teeth my mother made in dental school.

My mother used to stow things away for someday. I must admit, I inherited the trait to a degree. The practice makes cleaning out a loved one’s stuff after their death, well, interesting. I still don’t know why Mom put a handful of her long, straight, gray hair in a grocery bag.

I found the bag of hair tucked in a drawer of the coffee table. I kept the hair.

“What do you do with your old bras?” Moonlight asked me.

“Throw them away,” I said.

“I cut them here and here,” she said, as if snipping the material with her fingers. She then flattened the cup. “They become coasters.”

There’s a lot of talk out there about decluttering our spaces. A lot of throwing shade about keeping lots of stuff around a house. But I couldn’t come down on Moonlight. She was exploring her creativity.


Mom kept bathroom tiles from the house that burned down on our property. She planned to use them “someday.”

And I can’t come down too terribly on my mother. All right, yes, her hoarding tendencies gave me a huge project to complete, but honestly, I enjoyed it. As if on an archeological dig, I sifted through hers and Dad’s things and discovered them. I found that often-sought connection people who lose loved ones hope to re-establish.

I needed my mother most when I lost her, and among her things, I found her.

I threw away a lot of stuff, but I kept the teeth she made in dental school, the sketches for paintings she created, a 1995 weight loss chart, and her last crossword book. They mean nothing to others, but for me they give tangible evidence of a person I can no longer hear or touch.


A stirring stick from the Hotel Copacabana in Havana, Cuba. I found it and realized it was a keepsake from when my mother planned to move to the island, before Castro took over.

Usefulness may be judged by an emotional value, not necessarily by their original purpose. As long as objects don’t impede our lives, we shouldn’t feel we must get rid of them. Yes, sometimes things do get in the way. Not all things, but some things. Those things need to go. As we trust the process, we will know when to release the “stuff.”

Moonlight’s mother died last year. She’s got her mama’s sequined shoes, roller skates, and lots of other things. This little girl’s space was at a premium, but you better believe I didn’t suggest she throw away a single one of her mama’s things. Moonlight has a lot of healing to do.

The stuff she keeps may end up being very useful someday.

What possession did you inherit that helped during your grief journey? Did it trigger a good memory or help re-establish a sense of connection?

Copyright © 2018 by Toni Lepeska. All rights reserved.



7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Good morning, Toni. Love the story of Moonlight the artist going through her room and how you tied it to going through your mother’s things. I was too young when my mom died. 21 and didn’t know God. Overwhelmed by going through stuff. Thankfully I still have a few things. Have a blessed day, Julie


    August 22, 2018
    • Julie, as grieved as I am to have lost my mom, I had her for 42 yrs. I hear from ladies who had to navigate adulthood without their moms. My heart goes out to you. I’ve watched you on social media and any mom would be proud of you. I’m so glad you have some things to remember your mom by. Most importantly, you have what she poured into you for 21,yrs. Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

      August 22, 2018
  2. Thank you, Toni. Your kindness is a gift. Letting these words sink in about my mom.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 22, 2018
  3. Sheryl M. Baker #

    Great post, Toni. When my dear friend I did Bible study with for over 14 years passed, her daughter-in-law said I could take whatever I wanted of her things. I chose 2 Bibles she used on a regular basis, the dishes we ate off of weekly, and a few other things that meant something to me. We still use her dishes today and every time I take them out of the cabinet, I have fond memories of her.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 25, 2018
    • What a great way to remember and memorialive your friend. I am sorry for your loss. I’m sure she’d be delighted you think of her in this way. I know I would.


      August 25, 2018
  4. Toni, while I’m blessed to still have my parents here on earth, all of my grandparents have passed from the scene. And what little possessions I have of theirs has been comforting, a connection to their lives, of which I know very little about. They lived through either the Great Depression and the world wars since, so their life experiences have been somewhat hard; and some of their stories they chose not to share in great detail. For me, this creates a huge interest and a research opportunity to learn more about them, and the possessions they left behind help me learn about the adventures they did not share with me as much. My grandfathers served in the Korean Conflict, and their photos and letters connect me to either the enjoyment of certain things they did or the not-so-pleasant things they experienced. The few stories from my grandmother show me what was most important in her life, which wasn’t much. In all, these pieces of their unspoken lives connect me to them in a somewhat greater way than when they were alive. But I do miss them.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 27, 2018
    • Thank you for sharing, Tisha. Wow, so much you have learned and yet of course, there are still questions. I find that, too, with stuff I’ve read from my parents’ lives, and a collection I found of my grandmother’s letters (I never knew her). It’s so neat that we can touch not only the history of our society / nation but the personal lives of people who we loved and who came before us.

      Liked by 1 person

      August 27, 2018

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