Scraps of Paper


Photo Credit: Beverly Brown Photography

I have spent the past two days going through scraps of paper in my Aunt Betty’s house.  As she moves closer to the fullness of life beyond this temporary body, going through her things seems an invasion of privacy.  Yet, I have learned a lot in these past two days.  Going through scraps of paper can tell you a lot about what someone values.  The things we save, show what is important to us.

In her scraps, there were tons of email addresses of friends and family scribbled onto envelopes (She’s pretty tech savvy for an 84-year-old) and historical information about every organization, of the many, she is a part of. There were receipts from her considerable charitable giving.  Organ music. Hand bell music.  Guitar music.  Choral music.  Whole sets of magazines…most about music. Photographs from the distant past as well as fairly recent ones.  Notes given to her by some of her many former students, from her 37 years as a music teacher.  Signatures of her honor chorus students wishing her well.  Thank you notes from people she’s played for some occasion or another. (A couple with money still in them!) Newspaper clippings of everything from the 1996 Olympics, to comic strips, to obituaries of her friends. Scrapbooks filled with high school football scores and hand drawn pithy cartoons about their losing record.  Every single card she has ever been sent, for any occasion, as well as every program from every concert she has ever attended.  You could say she is a packrat, but I prefer the term historian. Her front office is a time capsule.  This makes organizing both exhausting and interesting because of the treasures you find along the way, buried under piles.

When I think of a life well lived, I never have considered paper scraps before.  Yet, they tell her story, like a mosaic.  A lover of all kinds of music.  A fighter for human rights. A generous heart to give to others, while she herself lives frugally, as taught to her by the Great Depression. A stickler for details that are historically accurate. An educator in more ways that just the classroom.  A proud Aunt, Sister, and Daughter. An educated woman.  A talented woman.  An independent woman. A woman who is loved by many.  A woman who cares deeply about many things.  A woman of faith expressed through music.  A complete picture.

She may have been concerned and embarrassed as I dug through her stuff. I know I would be if someone went through mine!  But in the cleaning, came some more knowledge of what is in her heart.  My whole life, I have known her as my aunt who loves me as her own child.  She treats us all that way.  She is an influence on us with her dedication to the arts. She has made homemade computer cards for all of us for each occasion and she has knitted thousands of things, as long as we have been alive.  Those are all Aunt Betty things to do, but the things I learned in her office are things she did for others, whom I did not know.  Things that she accomplished that are hung on her walls.  Things she attended to with love and detail. Things that mattered to her deeply…all from scraps of paper.

I write an Easter blog each year with a grateful heart for the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ.  It is important to me in my faith to remember the profound love of God.  This year, I am ever so grateful for his provision, so that Aunt Betty will soon be able to hear the music her heart has always been longing for.  One of her friends wrote me that it is time for her life’s crescendo.  I think that is a perfect way to say it.  Blessings to you all on this Resurrection Sunday, may you live your lives as well as my Aunt Betty.

6 thoughts on “Scraps of Paper

  1. Thank you Michelle for sharing this beautiful post.
    Reading between the lines it seems as if your Aunt is not far off from joining the Lord and entering into the joy of His presence. Glory to God that we are able to have that assurance!
    I have had a similar experience going through my mother’s things. It truly is enlightening and a challenge to go through the personal pieces of evidence from a life well-lived. It has definitely given me a greater incentive to live a God-glorifying life.
    Happy Easter!

    • Thank you. It has been a very difficult three days…and 6 weeks before that…and probably several more days and weeks after. She is a wonderful lady and I will miss her dearly. We are down to a few days now…maybe less. 😦

      • I can imagine Michelle. I’m sorry to hear that and will lift up a prayer for you and your family for God’s overriding peace and comfort when the time comes. May the fact that you are assured she is leaving to be with the Lord alleviate that sense of loss.
        Best wishes,
        You are in my thoughts!

  2. Michelle, this reminds me of our experience when my Sis and I went through Mother’s house, especially her home- office. There was the evidence of her friendships, her interests and responsibilities, as well as her acuteness of mind and attention to detail.. Letters to her and carbon copies of her responses! Financial records that showed her generosity and sense of public duty. THANK YOU & PLEASE, LET’S ENCOURAGE FOLKS TO SAVE THIS STUFF! DON’T DECLUTTER YOUR OFFICE or STUDY! – Some patient person who has eyes to see will go through it someday and find it a BLESSING! – luv, mary

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