We pulled up alongside the house, just like people have probably done for years. Anticipation and excitement overflowed as we got out the car and walked up the driveway. But we were not grandchildren stopping by expecting cookies. We were not old friends coming over for games. We weren’t there to weep together before the funeral. We were strangers coming to buy their stuff.
I don’t know how they died. I know only a tiny bit more of how they lived. I saw a picture on the fridge, and I assumed it was them. An older couple. I think I heard someone say it was the woman who died. This was my first estate sale. I had a general expectation of what such a sale entailed, but I definitely did not anticipate the scope of things sold.
The leftover dish detergent, the unopened toothbrushes, the spoons, the clothes left hanging in the closet. The books, the vacuum cleaner, the seeds left unplanted. I don’t know if the woman of the estate knew her death was near. Was she ill? Was it terminal? Or was it sudden? Regardless of whether she knew she was dying or not, she never stopped living. It wasn’t like she went on a vacation and carefully rationed the milk in her fridge until the day of her departure. No, she was survived by her rocking chairs, quilts, and half empty bottles of hand soap.
Everything she owned, adorned with a sticker indicating a price, told the story of this unnamed lady. She seemed like quite the lady. She, or maybe her husband, drank Coca-Cola. Her collection or coke memorabilia must have taken years to build. As did her collection of perfume bottles. Marble, crystal, fake guns—she had them all. Tools, rusted and pristine, told of hard work. The clothes were typical, but I bet she debated before she purchased every frock. Because this is Nashville, there were cowboy boots.
A Bible caught my eye. It was white and worn. Timidly, I picked it up to see if I could find a date. The dedication page was carefully filled in. The Bible was a gift from 1946. The year that Truman was president, the UN met for the first time, and the microwave was invented, someone received a Bible. And now, in 2013—the year Obama is president and the smart phone rules—that Bible was sold for $2.50. I thought about buying it. I returned to the out of the way table where it sat three different times, considering purchasing it. It was beautiful. But I decided against it.
There was something too personal about it. This wasn’t a paperback she read once. It wasn’t even her favorite book or a treasured photo album. This was her copy of the Holy Bible. Did she carry this Bible every Easter Sunday? Did she turn to this Bible for comfort when her children were sick? Did she clutch this Bible in her hands when she wept at her husband’s funeral?
I do not know. I do not know if she let the power of the words on those pages changer her life. I dearly hope so. My eyes fall on my own Bible. The book with the words that have changed me. I have clung to it in loneliness. I have let it sooth away my guilt. I have rejoiced in the words on the pages.
This estate sale made me think of my own mortality. I am too young to have a full estate. I don’t have much. But if it were to be sold, my American Girl Dolls might go for $100. My bed, $40. The half full “Be Enchanted” body spray, a mere fifty cents.
I realize just how easy it is to sell a lifetime of stuff. After decades of careful collection, this unnamed woman’s things were gone in the course of some orange stickers and a Friday morning. Though her Bible, one of many that I saw in the house, was for sale, the lessons that she may have learned from it last her still.
Likewise, the lessons I have learned from my Bible, and from those who are pouring life into me, are something that cannot be priced. If I choose to smile at a stranger, choose to show kindness to those closest to me, choose to teach the Bible to a child, or choose to share the love God has so abundantly given me, then I choose to invest all that is eternal. Unlike the collection of awards and honors and recognition and people pleased that I so diligently build, these treasures are true. I think it’s time for me to dust the cobwebs off, gaze on God, and remember to love without selfish ambitions.
I did purchase Unnamed Woman’s coffee mug tree, broach necklace, and pearls (all for less $2.70). When I wear those necklaces and when I drink from the mugs that hang on that tree, I will think of her. I will remember the lessons that she has taught me. And I will love, as if tomorrow is my last day. I will love because Christ first loved me.