The Stuff We Leave Behind

This past week my youngest brother Dan and I cleared out our recently deceased brother’s apartment. Even though he had moved many times over the last six years and had been downsizing, he still had a lot of stuff. In fact, the second bedroom was jam-packed full of boxes (shown above) that hadn’t been unpacked since he moved to South Carolina in September of 2021. All of them had to be opened and gone through.

Besides all the usual things you’d expect–clothes, pots and pans, drugstore items, food, towels, etc.–my brother also had sizable collections of rocks, minerals and crystals, fishing equipment, decrepit tools, paintings (still wrapped) and paperwork/unopened mail everywhere.

All of this went in the garbage.
I did take a flannel shirt of his, but the rest went to charity.
My 90-year-old dad sorting through a couple of small boxes of rocks and crystals.
(There were many, many more!)
My brother did take the pretty rug underneath all this mess.

In the end four truckloads were taken to charity, six boxes of non-perishable food were left at Blessing Boxes and 10 huge bags of garbage were left for the bin men! A few pieces of furniture were sold and the rest the landlord was happy to sell or keep which included a few antique pieces.

It was an exhausting and stressful few days.

We did find a things to keep, but every choice was tempered by space constraints–what would fit in the truck for the 350-mile ride back to Tennessee, what would fit in the apartment my brother and Dad share and, for me, what would fit in my suitcase for my flights back to California. As you can imagine I took very little.

Here are my keepsakes…

I took a vintage fishing lure which serendipitously my dad told me was my mom’s favorite! As a bit of backstory you should know that fishing featured prominently in my upbringing. I grew up just 10 miles from the Canadian border and almost every single vacation was spent in Canada fishing. It wasn’t exciting for us kids, but living in a cabin by a lake was novel and we all grew to enjoy fishing.

My mom’s favorite lure…and mine too.

I am also keeping one of my brother’s gemstone books as a reference guide for my business. It’s heavy duty.

My father was all set to toss a vintage scrapbook that had been partially filled by our great uncle with 1940s postcards. I put the brakes on that!! The postcards are mostly of Yellowstone National Park and the Badlands. Not valuable but kinda special. There are likely over 30 mini cards and a few regular sized postcards.

One of the last things I found was a small vintage compass by Marbles. Isn’t this cool? I need to research this more but similar ones are listed from $40 to $80.

So not a lot but I have my memories.

Of course the most important thing we took with us from South Carolina was the box with my brother’s ashes. Later, back in Tennessee, we scattered them on this spot of the Tennessee River on a brisk morning. Just the three of us. It was perfectly quiet and beautiful and sad.

On Wednesday I arrived back in California after two tedious flights and am still decompressing from the trip, but am glad to be home. Though it was wonderful to spend all that time with my youngest brother and father back East, I am ready to get back into my life.

Wishing you happy hunting,



  1. It must have been very hard. And so hard for a parent to lose a child, as they say, it shouldn’t happen that way. The scrapbook reminds me of my mother going through her mother’s things. She threw out photo albums because she didn’t know who “all these people are.” My brother rescued them from the trash. He is into genealogy, so I am sure he’s figured out who they are.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Karen,
    I was moved in reading your post; such a hard time for you and your Dad and brother. Hope these days back at home will be restorative. May you experience peace and comfort.

    Liked by 1 person

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