Possessions are nice to have, but so is a letter from a loved one

  • Many people sent edible gifts, such as candy or fruit, this holiday season.

    Many people sent edible gifts, such as candy or fruit, this holiday season. Susan Anderson-Khleif

Posted1/9/2021 6:00 AM

Possessions are nice to have, but some are more so than others. A place to live, food on the table, health care and other necessities of life are very important. All the rest are "nice to have," yet not really important. Well, that's my view.

Yet sentimental possessions are important connections to our past. And this is even more complicated for the bereaved because there are lots of personal items that belonged to your beloved, your parent or your child, and you may be wondering what to do with them -- keep or give away.


My own house is brimming over with items collected over the years, but that's OK. Each item a nice memory. I've chosen to keep most of them.

Any received as gifts are kind, of course. My mom, in the last 10 years of her life, gave me many items from her home -- antique china and silver mostly, and I love having them. Each item is a happy childhood thought.

However, I have noticed people are now more likely to send gifts of specialty foods, sweets, coffee or fruit instead of other items. Many people just don't need any more possessions (unless practical) but the treats are enjoyed and appreciated.

I even got myself a special homemade, fresh, grain-free linguine as a gift this Christmas. It came packed with 10 ice packs in a cooler to keep it fresh in transit. There's enough for at least six meals, and can be kept frozen for a treat once in a while. It's from an artisan bakery so I also give edibles, mostly to myself!

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A funny aspect of possessions is that they accumulate over the years. Sometimes I even forget I have certain items until I find them. Of course, I still have many of my dear husband Baheej's clothes and possessions. I'm not Queen Victoria, but that's was my reaction -- just keep it all, and in place. Most of it still is. I also keep many items from family members. Some people clear everything out after a death, but I guess I'm a keeper.

Yesterday, while moving some table linens to a different closet, I found a large set of white embroidered lacy place mats. They are very pretty. I got them from my mother's place when we closed it up after her death. Lovely, but not sentimental. I do remember them though. She used them. I will use them this year, probably at Easter.

What matters a lot more than possessions are our loved family and friends. Relationships are so much more important than possessions.

So that's where we need to put our energy, especially during this long coronavirus winter when people are so isolated. And I worry about the bereaved especially. As we know, isolation is not good in grief. So we all need to make more effort to communicate.

This includes relationships with our pets, of course. They are the only real beneficiaries of this "stay-at-home" order -- they get to be with us more and are thriving in the added attention.


Regarding our relatives and friends: We need to make more phone calls, emails, letters, texts, cards, FaceTime or Zoom. People need social connections, not isolation. Yes, a little time alone is good and often relaxing, but in general people need to be in touch with others.

I'm pleased to see how these virtual face-to-face online chats and meetings are catching on. Last December, I attended two online Zoom Christmas parties and they were fun, one especially. The women were so jovial and friendly and kind to each other. It was heart warming to be part of that Zoom party.

The point is: Now that the big holidays are over and we are not preoccupied with gifts and cooking, we need to make more effort to stay in touch with friends and family.

People still love getting mail -- personal mail in the mailbox, not junk mail and bills! It's time to revive the lost art of letter writing. Remember, the postman/woman will pick up your outgoing mail from you mailbox.

Or, rather than pen and paper, at least send an email. It's good to be kind. Let's try harder. Reach out. I will take my own advice.

• Susan Anderson-Khleif of Sleepy Hollow has a doctorate in family sociology from Harvard, taught at Wellesley College and is a retired Motorola executive. Contact her at sakhleif@comcast.net or see her blog longtermgrief.tumblr.com. See previous columns at www.dailyherald.com/topics/Anderson-Kleif-Susan.

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