Open the Story Suitecase
A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children. Proverbs 13:22 Voice
I pulled the dusty suitcase down the attic stairs. It was heavy as I pulled on the make-shift handle and stumbled as I carefully dragged it to the living room. The snap as I opened it startled Mom as she was napping on the hospital bed we had set up for her in their tiny living room. The musty smell of old photos and newspaper clippings wafted up to my nostrils as I opened it carefully.
"What are you doing?" Mom was sweetly.
"Oh, I just found a treasure of old photos and papers in this suitcase," I answered quietly. "Sorry I woke you up."
"Have I told you today how much I love you?" she answered back.
"Yes, Mom but you can tell me again," I said with tears in my eyes.
This visit to see Mom would be my last. She was getting weaker and was under hospice care. She slept most of the time yet still knew us. More importantly, each time she awakened she told us how much she loved us. I sat for the next few days asking her questions about the contents of the suitcase.
"Mom, tell me about this picture with Dad. You're standing by such a cool car and you're all dressed up," I added.
"Oh, I guess you could say that was our first date. Your Dad's cousin had that car and drove us up to the mountains. We were still in our church clothes. That was the first time we held hands," she said lovingly.
"You Dad was always interested in me, I think. Up until that time though we had done everything in groups and mainly for ministry," she explained.
"How did you know that he was 'the one' for you?"
"We prayed and just knew that it was the Lord's will. I'm tired now so we can talk later," she said.
I continued to sort through the contents of the suitcase. I found a program for her college graduation that showed her as the valedictorian and preaching twice. In addition, she presented the founder of L.I.F.E. Bible College, Aimee Semple McPherson, a special present from their class. She preached on the topic of the Holy Spirit which would become her life message and the topic that blessed countless hundreds as she gently prayed for them to receive their Heavenly language - and they did! I couldn't help but smile as I glanced over at her sweet frame and heard her shallow rhythmic breathing.
"So Mom, tell me more about your romance with Daddy," I asked her as she stirred once again.
"Oh, we were engaged after three months," she revealed for the first time.
"What? You never told me that, Mom!" I retorted.
"Yes, we were so in love with the Lord and both had the same calling to serve Him. We knew it was God's will. Be sure to let the grandchildren know that we didn't marry for another year. We waited until after I graduated from Bible College and we were given our first church in North Hollywood," she continued.
That was one of many anecdotes and chuckles as I continued to mine the treasures of a suitcase before it was too late. I love the time we shared.
How fun it is to #tellhisstory!
Ask key questions
If you are blessed to have your parents still on this earth, set aside specific times to ask key questions that will reveal more about their lives than you know now. Mom was so humble she never wanted to brag about being valedictorian of her class. I am so grateful to have found what helped us to spark these priceless conversations.
Tag the back of old photos
My only regret is that Mom was unable to identify the people in the old photos as her vision was affected by macular degeneration. It was mainly of her family so there are many photos that we were unable to identify. Record the names of the family for future generations.
Honor the values
I am so grateful that I was able to honor Mom's intelligence, spiritual legacy and love while she could hear it. I collected a list of 10 things that most people didn't know about her as I shared at all three of the services we had to celebrate her life.
There is no time to waste. Write your own family stories. Record them. Scan the pictures and get the names while you still can. Honor fully and live with no regrets.