Stuff of the deceased

I started another ‘death’ related thread on Cremains a day or so ago. This stuff is still fresh in my mind, and I wanted other opinions.

God I hate going through my father’s stuff. It’s such a melange of sadness, memory, desire, guilt.

My Dad valued good tools. He’d always say that the better tool was ‘only a dollar more’ and would return better service over it’s life. So here I am, at (now) my Mother’s house, looking at the workshop he built to entertain himself in retirement. I’m 1200 miles from home, and anything I REALLY want, has to be prefaced with that which will fit comfortably in my luggage.

Tools are heavy, and I’ve had my own workshop for years, so I’m pretty well stocked as it is. I don’t need the drill-press, or the chopsaw, or the air compressor. I tend to automobiles and he tended to woodwork, so there’s stuff here I don’t want. Of the things I DO want, a lot of it is too heavy to ship. It’d be cheaper to buy the ball-bearing heavy-duty casters at the local Harbor Freight than to ship these home.

Making a spot on the workbench for a milk crate, I move a pair of reading glasses. I move them carefully out of habit, then note that, crap. Nobody will need them anymore. I see tools that remind me of him, and lots of other bits and pieces, but the things that really affect me, are the scraps of paper in his handwriting. Little notations, measurements, pencil-sketches of projects started, half-complete, or never to be built.

It’s a rotten rotten feeling looking at his camera equipment. He just reciently bought a digital SLR. He’s always had good film equipment and the DSLR is no exception. I’ve always followed the back side of the curve, buying the good value, but cheap equipment and living with its shortcomings. His DV setup is a camera that for years was used by professional videographers. I remember him paying a good two and a half times more for his video camera that I did for mine.

And now they’re both mine. In my short visit here, I’ve already taken better pictures of the kids.

I see in the equipment my father. I remember him using them to record memories, his commentary always ending a scene with ‘more later!’…but there isn’t going to be any more later. The last video cassette was made less than a month ago, and it contains the voice I won’t ever get to talk to again. There are three or four DV tapes I’ll go through and edit down to a DVD for Mom. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing to do or not, but it seems like an easy way to reduce the guilt at taking the equipment.

Taking the equipment.

I’m not really taking anything as Mom’s given me permission, but there’s always been a part of my mental fabric that fears Dad’s stuff. Don’t touch Dad’s stuff. Don’t BREAK Dad’s stuff. It’s Dad’s stuff, not yours. Only now…it’s mine, and it’s a crappy pill to swallow.

I know the feeling. When my father passed, I needed to get a dress shirt for interviews, and she said why not take a look in the closet and see if he has anything that fits me?

I could only stay a few seconds in the closet. I can’t describe the feeling, exactly, but it was horrible and wrong.

I did take his electric razor, though. I needed a razor, and was unemployed, and I’m 100 percent sure he would have wanted me to take it. But it still felt very not-right in some manner.

Could you donate the tools somewhere? Some schools still have woodshops, and there are various vo-tech programs for people out there. Keep a few things that are deeply sentimental, and then feel good about the rest being really appricaited by someone else.

While admirable, the tools are worth some amount of money. Mom has donates several significant chunks of furniture, clothing and things to Immigrant Russian famlies and while it DOES feel good at a certain level, it won’t help her put a new roof on her house.

But that’s not really the point of this thread. The stuff in question isn’t sold, or donated. It’s the guilt and feelings associated with things that meant alot to the owner.

Basically, I suggested donation as a way to get rid of the guilt: it’s what I do when I get paid for something I don’t think I should have gotten paid for–I find a way to donate that particular money to something.

On the other hand, the nice thing about tools–if your mom has space-- is they can sit there for ten years and still be good for either sale or use. So you don’t have to make any quick choices at an emotional time.

What you’re going through sounds absolutely normal and healthy, and I wonder if what you describe as guilt i actually anything of the sort; your respect for your father and his possessions and methods is quite evident.

Clearly these things trigger poignant memories for you. Maybe in time, this will turn into an entirely positive thing, but in the meantime, why should there be any guilt? Guilt is what you should feel if you’re doing something wrong, and it really doesn’t sound like you are.

I am seriously moved by the OP. Nevertheless, this is not the right forum for this thread.

Moved from IMHO to (the inaptly named) MPSIMS.

I am a terrible person for bringing this thread up.

In all seriousness, Unintentionally, please accept my deepest sympathy for your loss. hugs

No worries Frank, I’m not offended. You guys do a great job of keeping the right stuff in the right place.

Kythereia That SO sounds like the following joke. (ignore the biblethumping, it was the only place I could find the joke)

I had the same feelings when we had to sort through my sister’s apt. She was a packrat–there was tons of stuff.

Clothes, shoes–my daughter wanted her jean jacket.

Jewelry–she was into precious stones–one of her necklaces is worth 5 figures.

It’s not that it isn’t nice stuff and some of it serves to remind me of her and that is appreciated.

It’s that I would trade all this stuff for her back in a heartbeat. It seems insane to me that this ring, this book, this album should survive, but she not. And then there are the things that meant so much to her, but what are we to do with them? The blanket she covered her parrot’s cage in–she appliqued it. The parrot is long since dead–we have no birds or need for this. What to do with it? Her old HS yearbooks, and college ones, ditto. :confused:
I hear you on the sudden realization that care need no longer be taken for certain things. And that in itself causes a pang.

Use the video stuff–make your mom that DVD or whatever. Make one for you and YOUR kids, too.

Mabye you could now use your tools in a more mindful way? To keep his legacy alive?

(not meaning to imply that you were careless with your tools, just that now perhaps you could fix/make whatever with your Dad as a role model/mentor for your fixing and making, if you follow me).

I think what’s interesting is: There’s stuff we OUGHT to keep, it meant something to someone near to us.* And other things that are merely taking up space. Mom is concerned that the space in the garage filled with tools is both space and hassle. Sure, it may be worth money, but really, if it ‘went away’, life would be better for her. As it is now, she’s unsure of the value, and it’s creating a little anxiety. Dad had some rather expensive gunsmith tools and reloading equipment…what’s a vintage Johnson 3 hp outboard motor that runs great worth? She has a fear of being taken advantage of, or becoming a target as a new widow.
*= (China Set Acceleration syndrome - You have your set of china, you inherit your mom’s china, both her mom’s china, and your mother-in-law’s china. Holy smokes! How many hand-wash plates do you need?)

I’m so sorry for your loss, Unintenionally Blank. I’ve walked in those shoes too. After my mother died, I didn’t want to touch her stuff. It was HERS. Everything was meaningful. It was so painful to go through her clothes and donate them. They still smelled like her. I even crawled into the bed on her side to catch the faint whiff of her still on the pillows. I wanted to keep everything, but logically knew I couldn’t.

When Dad died 18 months later, same thing. I kept a few things of his (including t-shirts) which are way too big, but I don’t care. They have “dadshape” which I find comforting.

I did inherit my mother’s engagement ring(s) – a long story – and had a sapphire put in the old setting she’d abandoned for another. I wear that ring as a symbol of me (sapphire from me), Dad (who bought it), and Mom (who wore it). It reminds me that they are always with me. My sister always wears my mother’s Mother’s ring, with two stones (my birthstone and hers) which Mom always wore. It reminds her of the good times and things.

Every time you use that camera, you will feel your dad’s presence. The pain will become less intense, I promise. Peace be with you.

I see what you mean! I already have that with Waterford crystal stemware. My sister (not one of the one’s who died) got divorced and moved about 4 times–she sent me her wine glasses (luckily, I didn’t have much of mine and IMO, Waterford is mix and match). Then one sister dies–I get more Waterford (luckily, she didn’t have much).

Thank God Leigh never married OR collected Waterford. I could open a small shop!
I draw the line at china–I have 12 place settings. Someone else can have the china!
Is there some type of appraiser that could come out and look at your Dad’s tools?

When my first sister died, she had lived in Boston and I wasn’t involved in the clearing out of her apt. But I was sent 7 large boxes of Stuff. Mostly, I cleaned it up and shipped it right out to GoodWill–how many Tupperware containers does one need?

When my second sister died, she had lived near me, so my house became the clearing house for ALL her Stuff that we didn’t take to the Salvation Army. I must have driven 8 minivan loads to my house from Streeterville in downtown Chicago. My garage was packed (it was August). There is some Stuff I regret giving away, but I was so overwhelmed with the quantity–it is exhausting.

Then, my husband’s godmother’s caregiver (the godmother had died in May), suddenly said, you must come pick up the stuff she left you.

Now we had MORE stuff-no room in the garage, so it went into the basement. I was drowning in Stuff. 2 patio sets, neither of them complete? That kind of Stuff.
I swear it changed me forever. This was almost two years ago–and I have been throwing shit out ever since: my old stuff, the kid’s old toys (broken etc) and I give stuff away like crazy.

Not only do I feel burdened with Stuff, I don’t want to do that to my loved ones when I go. So, I don’t buy alot of stuff. (you would think I would have tons of money since I am not buying Stuff–funny, that hasn’t happened!).

Good luck with your Dad’s things. I hope you feel a bond with him when you do use them.

I kept some stuff of my mom’s…some semi-precious jewelry, her sewing machine, and a wife-beater that I occasionally wear (she would never have worn it alone…it was strictly to keep her warm in the winter).

I loved going through her stuff. It was very comforting to me. My dad got rid of most of her stuff, but there are things that are still in the house eight years later. I find comfort in seeing silly things like her partial plate and her manicure kit. And dad has left the kitchen organized pretty much the same as mom had it. I still ask, “Where does mom keep the blue casserole dish?” Old habits die hard.

My mom is practical, if nothing else. When Dad died, nearly 4 years ago now, even before the funeral, she was clearing out his stuff. That sounds cold, but when you consider that Dad hadn’t been in the greatest health, plus she was all alone in this big house and couldn’t sleep and had to do something, well, it made sense. She kept a few of his things that meant a lot to her, offered others to us sibs and our spouses, and gave the rest to Goodwill.

Same sort of thing in '96 when her father died (her mother had died the year before) - we all got to pick things that meant something to us, she kept what she wanted, and Goodwill got the rest. Going one step further, Mom started giving some of her own stuff away, too. She gave me a couple of crystal pieces (I’m not much into dust collectors, but she wanted me to have them) and asked if there was anything else I wanted. Really, there’s not much. She also offered me my dad’s accordion, since I’m the only one of the 5 of us who plays, but I have my own and it hasn’t seen the light of day in many years. So my BIL took that.

I dread the day Mom dies, beyond the loss. But my brother is her executor, and he’s very fair and honest, so I don’t anticipate the scavenging my dad’s sisters did after his mother died. Still, there’s something unnerving about dividing up someone else’s possessions - it seems wrong. On the other hand, it’s too weird to preserve all their stuff in a shrine - bordering on creepy. I suppose I should think about what I’ll leave behind…

My Dada died almost 10 years ago.

Going through Dad’s stuff was hard. Cleaning out the desk started by looking for any importaint papers like bank accounts and stuff. When I got into the little stuff like the bill of sale for his first brand new car 40 years ago was touching and sad. He didn’t save any others, just that first one.

His wallet sat on the dresser for days. My brother and I couldn’t bring ourselves to touch it.

I have boxes in a closet of his stamp collection and Mom’s jewlrey is in my safe deposit box. Every once in a while my brother or I ask what do you want to do with it? I dunno, what do you want to do? A year later we have the same conversation.

My brother shouldn’t be allowed a screwdriver let alone anything sharp with whirring blades. Looking at Dad’s tools I did have a “mine mine MINE all mine Bwahahahaha” Daffy Duck feeling. :smiley:

Enjoy the camera and trust me, it gets easier.

Dada? ignore the second a.

The hardest aspect of dealing with my sister’s death has been the fact that, over time, you develop a mental picture of every aspect of the person based on your interactions with them and observations of them. Whenver you see this person, your picture of them is either reinforced or altered.

Once they are gone for good, you get the sickening realization that the picture you carry in your head, however accurate or inaccurate it may be, is your only eveidence that they even EXISTED. Apart from the physical artifacts of their time here. So when practicality demands that these items be disposed of in some way, it feels like a great violation of the person who is gone.

Trust the picture. Ask yourself, would person I know want everything kept as a shrine to them? Think of your father’s tools. Obviously his preference and yours would be that he be out there in the garage with them, doing what he did happily. But he is not here to use them, and you and your family must be his agents for their fate. Denied the use of them himself, what would he want done with them? Have them sit in the garage unused and neglected? I’m sure you can take it from there and do the right thing, based on your knowledge of him.

Wise words, scotandrsn . Thank you.

I do have some things that I kept, just to remind me of my sisters, but these things tend to be small.

My mother (whose hobby used to be refinishing antique furniture–she has 3 householdsful) has started this giving away of things-and thank god.

Thing is, so much of what she poured heart and soul into is not useable by the 3 remaining kids. My house is small, and already crammed with furniture. My sibs are single and travel alot–they live in a townhouse and a condo.

Not alot of room for Victorian furniture…

Museums are a great way to take care of those posession of your loved ones that you don’t want to keep but feel bad in selling. Call your local museum and ask them if they’d be interested. If they’re anything like the museum in which I work, they’d welcome the items.

People never think to donate to museums modern items, or “everyday” things that don’t have a lot of value, but those items are important. My museum has a huge gap in its collection-- it stops at about 1950 for the most part since people don’t think we’ll be interested in anything “new.” We are, and we’re interested in mundane items, too, since those are the ones which tell us the most about how people lived. (Museums collections often over-represent the posessions of the wealthy.)

If you give items to a museum, you know they’ll always be cared for properly, as well as helping to educated generations in the future. Your family member will always be remembered.

If you can, give us a letter along with the item, explaining where your family member got it and why it was important to them. Better yet if you could include a photo of your family member using the item. Personal details are more precious to us than monetary value. Any true historian would rather have the diary of a teenaged girl than a diamond ring.