It is the little things that really count

May 30, 2022

Did she leave much behind, vicar?

I was recently reminded of a story, where at a funeral the clergyman was asked. “How much did she leave, vicar?” He replied, “She left everything. They always do”.

The truth of this little anecdote is not lost on me as we clear out of my grandmother’s home. She passed only a few weeks ago at the venerable age of 100 years leaving behind a sound legacy and no small amount of domestic clutter.

Until you have to do it, you don't realise how painful it can be clearing out after someone goes. Each object is saturated in memories and while most have little monetary value no argument can be made for their retention. How tragic to think that your life’s possessions will be taken away in black bin bags.

Your time here will be distilled to a few items that family members can fit into their already crammed houses. In my grandmother’s case, several oil paintings, a few rings and about 10 photo albums. Without faith in life eternal one might despair.

You can live too long

In human terms, the saddest part of this whole affair is that while she lived an incredibly long life, in her own words she acknowledged, “you can live too long”. Practically, this meant there were few mourners at her funeral, as she had outlived them all. Virtually no-one left to bear testimony to a long life well-lived.

I know she was fond of my brother and I. We both wanted her to make her proud. Until recently, I thought professional success was the key and I’ve tried hard to keep the wolf from the door but alas I was never a doctor, a barrister or captain of industry, I thought she would have liked that. In the end I am just a wholly unremarkable husband and father. Instantly forgettable and invisible.

Here’s the thing though, For the last several years before she died, I used to prepare her sandwiches for lunch.

After her passing, many people said to me - “Ah, so you are the ‘sandwich man’. your grandmother always said how good they were. She was so grateful that you did that for her.”

Meaning might not be where you think it is

All those years I fretted about this life of significance I needed, all while doing my sandwich duty, which I thought rather lowly of.

This small, inconsequential, routine activity was more valued and appreciated than I will ever realise.

As I take a moment to reflect .. we think the reward of life is about being seen or admired for our talents and professional prowess.

What counts are the small, consistent acts of faithful kindness.  

"When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people."  Rabbi Abraham Heschel

PEARL MURDOCK 1921 - 2022

With love we remember you.