My dad had recently died of a sudden heart attack and the funeral was now behind us. It had been a very emotional experience, but there was still more to do. My two sisters and I met at his house a few days later to sort through his things. He had downsized in recent years and his personal belongings were so few that we were finished in less than an hour. As we were about to leave, one of my sisters spotted a small box that we had missed sitting on a shelf. She took it down, opened it and began to examine its contents.

There was a very old letter from a friend that I never knew he had. It was cordial with just small talk and a statement at the end about how much my dad’s friendship had meant to him over the years. I pulled out a program of a Junior Miss pageant which I remember him attending. There, printed in the list of contestants, was one of his granddaughters. She also removed a key chain, a few business cards, and phone numbers of people in other cities from another era of his life. None of these had much significance to his children, but they had been important to him.

While sitting there, it occurred to me that we had been looking at his life in a box. Had he ever thought that someday, his children would be going through these things? Had he left us clues to secrets which he had clung to for so many years? Probably not. These were just mementos of days gone by. These were a means by which he could revisit the good times and the memories he had enjoyed. These things had reminded him of people who had passed through his life bringing him happiness.

As I think back on this experience, I marvel that such a small box had contained the things that defined my dad’s life. There are many times when I wonder what size box will I have? His life had consisted of sixty-three years and a heart attack had brought it to an end. Since that day, I have wondered about the day when my daughter will be sorting through those things which were important to me.

Some of these are wonderful cards sent to me by people much more thoughtful than I. Though I probably never acknowledged receiving many of them, they brought me great happiness. There is a very old pocket knife which belonged to my grandfather who was my hero. She will also find everything she has ever written to me, along with drawings she did in church or elementary school. There will be those photographs which are most special to me. Most will be of my little girl and her very proud dad doing something silly together.

When we sort through all the “things” of our lives, the truth is that we can probably also reduce those which are most important to a small box. What does that say about where we are focusing our attention now? As my daughter closes up my little box and walks out the door, I want her to have seen in its contents a dad who loved her dearly, who walked faithfully with his Lord, and who cherished his relationships with others. May this will be my life in a box.

James 4:13-14 says, Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such a city, and spend a year there, and buy and sell, and make a profit.” Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away.”

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