One of the dubious tasks of mid-life is helping your parents dissolve their household or sort through their possessions after their death. This week my dad, sister and I spent a couple days sorting and dispersing my mother’s personal effects.

It strikes me as ironic that our possessions, which are supposedly less important than our person, outlast the flesh. When my grandmother died many years ago, I ruefully realized that while I received an inanimate treasure that had been hers, I would have much preferred to still have her bodily presence.

We sifted through Mom’s glittery baubles, which she loved but would never wear because of her Adventist beliefs. We filled boxes with shoes, sacks with hangers and bags with old documents to shred. Although each of us kept treasures that reminded us of her love and passions, it was sad to think that a lifetime of living could be reduced to a few crates destined for an estate sale.

As we worked, I thought about how, after death, our footprint becomes smaller and smaller as our things are scattered or destroyed. At the same time, our imprint becomes larger. We remember our loved one, sometimes very differently than we perceived them when they were living. Subtleties we may have missed come into focus; characteristics are spotlighted, assumptions may be questioned. The gifts of their life become more precious and the memories sustaining.

The imprint widens.

Which led me to contemplate…which do I want to be larger, even now, my footprint or my imprint?

Ann Halim, editor

Reprinted with permission from College View Church eWeekend newsletter