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Clearing Out Our Deceased Daughter’s House – The Last Goodbye
Seventeen months ago, our daughter died from the injuries she sustained in a car accident. Since that tragic accident, we have walked with sadness every day. We also became a GRG – grandparents raising grandchildren. My husband and I are the legal guardians of 16-year-old, fraternal twins. Raising them is our new life mission – a sacred mission – and we will do our best.
We try to help the twins deal with their grief, move forward with life and create new goals. Cleaning out our daughter’s house, the house she and the kids love so much, has been a heartbreaking experience. Our grandchildren packed some stuff and after that they didn’t want to go home. Her home had been a happy place, a place filled with love and laughter.
Now it was a sad and lonely place and we had to sell it.
Months ago, rural towns in Southeast Minnesota were hit by a massive flood. Many families lost everything they had and some were still living in government trailers. And so, instead of having an auction, my husband and I decided to donate the contents of our daughter’s house to Rushford Flood Relief. We discussed the idea with our grandchildren and they approved.
The contact organization was Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Spring Valley, Minnesota. Packing items took us several months. Items that were not designated for flood relief were donated to the Goodwill. Last Saturday, a large rental truck pulled up in front of the house. A smiling man with a white beard got out of the truck and introduced himself as the church pastor. “This is a sad day for me,” I told him, “and I will cry.” He completely understood.
Twenty-two church volunteers (youth group and adult members) had offered their help. The chairman of the municipality gave them loaded instructions. Before loading began, the group gathered together in a prayer circle. The pastor asked God to bless the volunteers and thanked our family for their generosity. After the prayer I added, “Many of you know our story. Our goal is to make something good out of grief.” Tears streamed down my cheeks as I voiced these words.
Many volunteers thanked us personally for what we did. “There’s a lot of good stuff here,” said one. “You’re going to help a lot of people.” The volunteers worked quickly and a “parade” of items went out the door: dining tables, coffee tables, straight chairs, wing chairs, lamps, televisions, computer workstations, dishes, pots and pans, bedding, porch furniture, and more. Two hours later, the truck was packed to the ceiling.
The pastor locked the back hatch, got into the truck and slowly drove away. I stood in front of the house and sobbed. Although a few items were still on the floor and the garage was still untidy, the last vestiges of our daughter’s daily life were gone. The next day I received an e-mail from the chairman of the municipality.
According to him, volunteering had given the members of the youth group a better understanding of compassion and giving. He went on to say that 10 new volunteers unloaded the truck when it reached Rushford. Residents of the flooded communities gathered around the truck and took the furniture and labeled boxes they needed. An hour later – just an hour – the truck was empty.
From the prayer circle, to meeting volunteers, to closing the back hatch, the day was a religious experience. Giving to others made us feel better and we think it made our grandchildren feel better too. James Russell Lowell wrote about giving in the “Vision of Sir Launfal” and we keep his words in our hearts. He wrote:
Not what we give, but what we share –
Because the gift without the giver is bare;
He who gives himself with his alms feeds three –
Himself, his hungry neighbor, and me.
Copyright 2008 by Harriet Hodgson
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