Nothing lasts

The old gray and brown suitcase was in good shape for its age. From about 1940 I guessed.

I opened it, half gingerly — not knowing what to expect — and with excitement in my belly.

The latches unclasped with ease, and my gaze met a layer of tissue paper.

“Must be something delicate under here,” I mused.

The suitcase belonged to my grandma who passed away a decade ago. She stored precious items in it — probably not worth much in monetary value my mother informed me — once owned by previous generations of our family.

Easy does it” I thought, peeling back the thin paper, only to discover other items neatly wrapped similarly beneath.

I picked a small light parcel from the top, and my heart melted a little. Sadness, for the loss of my grandma, tinged with love engulfed me. The package contained a silk scarf I hand painted for her many years before, thinking it would keep her neck warm. No wonder I’d never seen her wear it.

“She must have cherished it to have buried it like treasure all these years,” I said aloud.

The next bundle, much heavier, was a collection of family photos. I glanced at my dog, who sat patiently waiting for me to delve further into the case.

“Who are these people do you think?”

He widened his big brown eyes as if sharing my wonder.

I studied the picture at the top of the pile.

Two girls and a boy in fancy dress, enacting a scene from a play, stared at me.

Above the threesome loomed the branches of a great oak casting a shadow over the proceedings.

Another photograph showed two aged women in black old-fashioned gowns and bonnets with ribbons. Unsmiling, but with all-knowing eyes they looked like ghosts caught in another timeframe.

I surveyed the rest of the pictures of numerous people I’d never met, many of whom must have lived over a hundred years ago.

It dawned on me their belongings, makeshift swords and theatrical outfits, mourning clothes, and glorious swimsuits, plus they themselves, of course, were gone.

What was once alive or real had vanished as quickly as it came.

I opened more parcels. One contained two ornate candlesticks I traced back to a wedding — given as a gift to my ancestors before my grandparents were born — and another an enormous heavy family bible inscribed with the names of my forefathers.

A small, beautiful portrait in a blue velvet surround caught my attention. A handsome fellow wearing a uniform glanced from the oval frame over my shoulder with dreamy eyes.

“Yet one more person I’ll never meet who spent his time and left,” I told my dog, who, now bored, laid with his head on my feet.

Rummaging through the old suitcase reminded me we are only here a short while, and our belongings — although they might outlive us — will someday turn to dust.

“What a fuss we make while we’re here,” I remarked to my sleepy hound, “gathering material possessions and imagining we’re remarkable. Yet one day, we’ll go and the world will continue without us. The birds will sing, the sun will shine, and new people will collect possessions and believe the planet turns for them alone.”

“The only thing that matters,” I continued, “is how you affect folks while you’re here and whether you make life better for those you leave behind.”

Unimpressed, my brown-eyed companion stretched, yawned, and went back to dozing as I carefully put everything back in the case.

Nature Lover, Former Mental Health Professional, Writer

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