What would you grab first if your house were on fire? – Money, ID, your family photos, if you are anything like most Americans, would be somewhere atop your theoretical list.

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What would you grab first if you were selling your parents’ house you recently inherited???

The house we have recently purchased in Smithfield, NC, was listed by the heirs way too soon. New owners skipped the legal notice requirements, neither giving time for creditors to submit claims against the estate nor waiting for potential hypothetical unknown heirs to appear and claim partial ownership of assets.

Inheriting property isn’t like winning the lottery. It is a compassionate issue. Losing someone close to you can be one of the most difficult challenges you face in life. A loved one’s death can leave you feeling shocked, angry, sad, depressed… There is no right or wrong way to grieve.

The offer was accepted.

The house was partially decluttered. Missing computers, empty desks, drawers, and walls showing hooks and multiple frame marks. An empty, depersonalized space.

The garage was filled with memories peeping out of the garbage bags and smashed boxes. I couldn’t resist taking a glance at previous owners’ history.

A beautiful, elegant couple smiled at me from old, faded photographs. Their happy eyes were not touched by time.

A wedding ceremony. I recognized a happy-looking couple. Judy’s special day – says calligraphy handwriting on the back of the photo. Bethel United Presbyterian Church (Monroeville, Pennsylvania) …

NY Yankees baseball cards. Interesting. “It’s a boy!’ – said another card, the address on the envelope lead to New York.

A pile of kids’ art pieces and school projects. A handmade card made me cry, “Mother… I’ll always remember when I was a little kid playing in the kitchen, whining and pulling on your apron strings…Pots are boiling over on the stove, the cat yowling… And you’d raise your sweet, calm voice above the din…and say … …”

I will never know what she said back then, but I know that lady with an angel face had a sweet voice, loving kids (a boy and a girl), and three cats. The family attended church on Sundays, were a part of St. Paul’s Church community in NC.

And another card full of love and kind words. Pictures of a family vacation to Kitty Hawk beach. Christmas cards. Diplomas. Certificates and awards. Teacher’s notes every parent would be happy to receive. Journal pages are carefully folded and wrapped with ribbon.

Numerous photographs reflecting a family’s journey, a family legacy, hidden treasures, and warm memories are thrown away to fade out forever. Memories warm us up from the inside. But they also can tear us apart.

As a sudden encounter of this Smithfield family’s treasure, I would like to preserve some of those memories and not let them disappear.

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