A different kind of goodbye

When I was perusing the Antique stores last weekend, I came across a set of china which kind of stopped me in my tracks, because it was so familiar to me.


This is the china that I will have inherited from my great-aunt. A full dinner and coffee set, that is. I love its vintage feel and it will always remind me of her.

When somebody dies, attending the funeral is one thing to bid farewell to a beloved person. Then, when the dust of first shock and grievance settles and the rushed arrangements for the funeral service lies behind you, a whole different process of saying goodbye follows. One that in some ways is harder and more difficult to go through than the actual burial of a body (or the remains of one).

A few weekends ago, my family went through the hard process of going through, sorting, organizing, disposing of and dividing up my great-aunt’s belongings. As I mentioned before, just two days prior to her death we had moved all her stuff into the granny flat in my parents’ house. And there it still was, all set up for her, all ready for her to move in and have a few more happy years with us. I swear, when I walked through the apartment one last time before flying back to California, the place already smelled like her.

For two weeks, my family didn’t touch a thing. In a strange way, despite having had the funeral, it was still sinking in that she wouldn’t come to live there.

I am part relieved, part bummed that I couldn’t be there when they went through her stuff. To be honest, it feels wrong to me to divide up belongings that clearly belong to someone else (even though that someone is not there anymore). My Mom called me and asked if there was anything from Ina’s things that I would like to have. I told her I would need a few days to think about it and then, whenever I mentally walked through her (old) apartment and (mentally) looked at her things, one feeling kept coming back to me again and again: that I am not entitled to anything, that I don’t have the right to make any claim to any of those items.

I kept thinking that I didn’t want any of her stuff, but that all I wanted was for her to come back.

Inheritance can bring out the worst in people (I know about it from other situations) and the last thing I want to do was to fight over a loved-one’s belongings after they passed away. I talked to my sister extensively before they went to work on the apartment. I told her that there are things that irrevocably remind me of her and that I would like to have if nobody else wanted them or if they were otherwise discarded. I did not have the guts to say “I WANT this”. I didn’t feel I deserved any of her stuff. Fortunately, things were divided up fairly and without any disagreements. I know this is how Ina would have wanted it.
The things I personally will inherit are a set of Meissen porcelain (see above), some personal items like a silver hand mirror and a small silver chest. I know my sister said there were some other odds and ends but I can’t recall any other things right now.

All of these things will be stored at my parents’ place for now. I won’t bring anything back to the States. It will be a while until I look at and touch these items again. It feels good to know though that they will be there, when I go back home. It’s comforting to know that my things will always be there, things don’t go anywhere without my permission.



  1. beautiful reflection. <3

  2. I can relate, on a slightly different level; my Gram has been going through her stuff, purging and getting rid of things, offering things to my mother, myself, my cousin, her other son. It’s so bizarre to think that she won’t be with us at some point, the she wants us to have things of hers. there are a few things I would love to have if she offered, but I won’t ask, I won’t make a fight of it and like you said, it’s not rightfully mine! Beautiful post.

  3. aw friend, i know none of this can be easy but it will definitely be nice for you to have some of her things. i have some small items of my grandparents and it makes me so happy whenever i see them.

  4. I so know the feelings you have to go through right now. Felt (and still feel once in a while) that way when my grandma passed…… So tough to let go of the best!
    Stay strong and keep the great memories locked in your heart!

  5. My family was also level-headed with one another when going through my grandparents’ belongings. With time, it has become easier to look at the things that once belonged to them. In fact, a certain smile comes across my face when I see those things sprinkled throughout my house – an everyday reminder of what wonderful people they were.

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