48: Real-Time Inheritance

48: Real-Time Inheritance

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less


Real-Time Inheritance

What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone but what is woven into the lives of others.


“We’re inviting you to claim any of our family possessions you want,” I e-mailed to our three adult children. My husband and I had recently completed our living wills and our attorney urged us to let the kids choose their favorite items now to avoid future squabbles. He had witnessed siblings who battled for years over a dish shaped like a chicken once their parents were gone.

Purging raised questions. Were we ready to part with our belongings when we would probably still be around for decades? Would our kids want antiques and collectibles that had been passed down through the generations?

Our children rose to the challenge and got to work.

Lori disliked “old junk” but selected the mahogany bookcase her dad had made, the chair where I rocked her and her siblings, the heavy Norwegian Bible, and for her five children, the tents and sleeping bags.

Steven wanted the grandfather clock and the butter churn so his son could crank it like he did as a boy. He also reserved the orange, 1969 Camaro Rally Sport convertible when his dad stopped driving it in the future.

Betsy appreciated antiques and wanted to pass them down to her three girls. “I feel an obligation to preserve the family heirlooms,” she said. “We have space in our home and the cabin, and our girls are into “olden day things” after reading the Little House on the Prairie books.” She flew in from her home in Maryland and visited us in Florida. She brought the layout of her floor space on graph paper and wandered through our rooms measuring the furniture. She chose the heavy pie safe, a small oak table for her desk, the four-poster bed for pre-teen Amy, a cane-seated rocker for third-grader Anna, and the coffee grinder to fascinate first-grader Ava. The list grew to include crystal goblets, cut glass bowls, and china. Her family would return during Christmas week, load everything into a commercial container, and ship it to Maryland.

Purging was liberating and we discovered that we still had a houseful of things to enjoy. Now, when we visit our children and grandchildren, we take a trip down Memory Lane as we view our treasures in the homes of the next two generations.

~Miriam Hill


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