I was walking through the house the other morning and noticed a box of papers on the floor in an out of the way corner of the dining room. These papers are the evidence of my late mother-in-law’s estate, the documentation my wife needed to complete her duties as executor of her mother’s estate.
My mother-in-law passed away just a few months ago. Holidays, family birthdays and all the days in between are still raw nerves without her. On Easter morning we recited, “He is risen!” just as she would have, even though none of us shares the faith that gave her such confidence and hope as she grappled with disease. She will remain alive in our memories and through the stories passed down through her family.
Still, that box of papers looked awfully sad and lonely. It that the evidence of her life, the proof that she once was? Of course, not. But it still seems a trifling bit of paper for someone who left so many other legacies.
It reminded me, too, that there’s a small file box containing the papers of my father, who died in 1995. The box of Dad’s papers is similarly off by itself in a closet, surrounded by books, pictures and a shoe shine box, the latter a not insignificant adjacency since it was Dad’s shoe shine box and he was nothing if not fastidious about keeping his dress shoes shined. He was just coming into his own when the Great Depression hit. He knew the value of a good pair of shoes and knew that caring for his shoes was not just a sartorial gesture, but a practical and responsible way of getting the full value from his investment in them.
My mother, meanwhile, continues to teeter at the doorstep of death. She has a physical presence, albeit one of limited consciousness, but also her own growing collection of papers, some of which will end up in their own storage box some day.
For now, though, she’s thoroughly modern. The day-to-day documentation of her life fills a large drawer in a chest. Her most important papers, though, are in a folder on the desktop of my computer. There’s even a backup copy in a computer “cloud” somewhere. I’ve no doubt she’d be doubly proud that the evidence of her life rests in such a contemporary setting.