July 22, 2015

A Walletfull of Wisdom

 Knowledge comes from learning. Wisdom comes from living. -Unknown

It is a sad truth that the acquisition of wisdom increases in the exact proportion that our influence on those it might benefit decreases - and maybe, that's just as it should be!

It's another sad truth that we may never know someone in life as well as we do after we've lost them. Going through a loved one's "things" brings insight that can be gained no other way and would be a terrible violation of privacy while they're still the keepers of their treasures. Once they've left the treasury however, there is nothing left to do but sort, sift, and decide. The process of doing these things for my deceased mother-in-law have brought a great deal of enlightenment. The first morsel was to be careful what I keep!

What I save will leave an unwritten story for those that follow to write in their own words. It will be left to them to decide the value and importance that each object held for me. They may get it right sometimes  and correctly assess my attachment to and love for a thing. They might also, without the benefit of my input, decide some hideous something I'd picked up at a garage sale, intended as a gag elephant gift, was a precious memento. (Perish the thought!)

Back to the sorting, sifting, and deciding. During the process of "settling the affairs" my husband needed to contact the Railroad Retirement Fund - from which Mom received her benefits. To that end the search began for account numbers and contact information. The place of last resort became Mom's wallet.

Mom's wallet is no ordinary wallet - it's more of a traveling vault. Fashioned like a man's bi-fold, it's devil's food cake brown with small patches of the burgundy red it used to be still showing in areas protected from constant use. It has a small single snap and a row of closure options to allow for expansion. It had reached the end of it's expand-ability. The imprinted - almost Celtic looking design over the snap has a spot that's worn white and nearly through from openings and closings. Its leather is soft and well worn from its years as a traveling Sherpa. Unpacking the contents made me think of Doctor Who's Tardis. There was far more inside than its outward appearance made possible and it felt oddly like unpacking a life. The wallet itself tells quite a tale but its contents contain an epic novel.

Besides the coins from the U.S., Canada, and England, there was also a coin from Cuba. There's paper currency from Canada as well - no surprise since Mom was born in Toronto and visited family there. There are family photos, business cards, and tokens - each a memory of a day spent - and $23.00 in cash - at least before today when I found a secret spot where three $2 bills had been folded and tucked.

Along with all of that Mom had collected a library of philosophy housed on bits of paper, cards, and news clippings containing sayings, verses, and sometimes poems that she'd carried with her everywhere she went. Each of these are windows into her view of and way of being in the world. On a tiny yellowed newspaper clipping:

A Bag of Tools

Isn't it strange 
That Princes and Kings,
And clowns that caper,
In sawdust rings,
And Common people
Like you and me 
Are builders of eternity?

Each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mask, a book of rules;
Each must make - ere life is flown -
A stumbling block,
Or a stepping stone.

On a brightly decorated card featuring a smiling sunshine:
A joyful heart makes a cheerful face.

Typed on a piece of red card stock and cut to fit:

Great Spirit; Grant that I may not criticize my neighbor until I have walked a mile in his moccasins. - Indian Prayer

Another small yellowed clipping contained a reader's note to Ann Landers sharing what her mother had taught her about successful living: 

Wash what is dirty. Water what is dry. Heal what is wounded. Warm what is cold. Guide what goes off the road. Love people who are least lovable because they need it the most.

On a card from a church my husband had pastored earlier in his career:

Faith is the map. Hope is the guide. Love is the way. 

And on another from the Michigan Council of The Boy Scouts of America:

The average of the world's great civilizations has been 200 years. These nations progressed through this sequence:

From Bondage to Spiritual Faith
From Spiritual Faith to great Courage
From Courage to Liberty
From Liberty to Abundance
From Abundance to Selfishness
From Selfishness to Complacency
From Complacency to Apathy
From Apathy to Dependency 
From Dependency back into bondage.
This cycle is not inevitable. Tomorrow's America depends on YOU!

(Scary to think about where we are in THAT cycle!)

Time and space permits me to share but a small fraction of the collection, but I think you get the point. We each travel through life collecting. Some of our treasures are physical, some emotional, and many are snapshots or memories. Each collected item serves to craft the lenses through which we view the people and world around us. It became clear to me that the currency in Mom's wallet held the the smallest portion of its value for her. I'm sure it's the same for many of us as well.

My lenses were polished by the opportunity to peek into a lifetime collection carried carefully in a well worn wallet. Mom's carefully chosen pearls now combine with my own gatherings. Her collection was bathed in a richness and depth that make me want to leave behind the kind of things that will enrich the lives of those tasked with sorting and sifting my things. After all, I have no control over the story that will be written about my life once I leave it, but I can make sure I leave  meaningful material to draw from.

How about you? Where do you store your philosophy library? Do you carry it with you in a well worn wallet? Maybe you keep a journal or create beautiful memory books. I keep mine on this blog!


  1. I LOVE these quotes!! What a great wallet!!

    I've often thought about what I'd be leaving behind, but I'm not too sure how much I should edit it either. I continue to battle with myself on this one, and find gratitude every day that I still have time to do the battle!!

    1. I hear what you're saying about over editing Tracey and the more I consider this, I'd rather err on the side of being too careful. A good friend recently lost both of her in-laws who she had taken care of and cared for over the years. After their passing, a post in her mother-in-law's journal, written in the heat of emotion, caused by a misunderstood reaction, left a deep wound on my friends heart with no recourse for settling the matter. I don't want something I did hastily, in the heat of emotion, to become a wound that's hard to heal for someone else.

      People will make sense of things according to their own perceptions regardless of how careful we are. Besides, I'm using this as a great excuse for a long needed purging! I'm feeling like my life is congested. I need room to breathe.

      Ever notice how we own things and then at some point - without even knowing it's happening - things owns us? They eat up our time, space, and energy! (But I digress. :)

      Thanks for weighing in!

  2. My dear friend, you are the author of you own story. How incredibly lucky, we who write are, that we get to record our own stories and the reasons for keeping the precious (or kooky) things we keep, for all posterity.

    1. Suzan

      Yes, I write my own story but it will be read in any number of ways. I like the quote "There is no reality - only perception." No matter what I save or toss the person doing the sorting will draw their own conclusions. Now that I think of it - leaving whacky stuff might just be a hoot to watch from the other side!