My friend Edith inherited her parents’ house, a 1940s showplace in its day. The house has been mostly empty for 30 years, but Edith can’t bring herself to part with it and its memories. She plans to leave it to a daughter rather than having it sold and the money divided. “Better ask your daughter if she wants it,” a friend counseled. And rightly so. The house and grounds require a lot of upkeep and the kitchen, built for a servant, has the inviting spaciousness of a TWA airliner galley. Edith’s daughter probably lacks her mother’s attachment to the place.
A few days ago, a neighbor mentioned the shock of driving by a deceased friend’s house to see a dumpster and a Deseret Industries truck parked in front. “My children better not do that with my things,” my neighbor said. But they will. With few exceptions, the worldly goods we worked and sacrificed to obtain—the treasures we packed and lugged on moves and spent our time cleaning and polishing—haven’t the same meaning for our children. Objects will be discarded. Houses will be sold, and the money used to buy their own treasures which their children will eventually toss into a D-I or Goodwill bin.
It’s tough to realize we are mortal. Our lives will end while the lives of our loved ones continue. They will remember us, but think of us less and less frequently as the calendar pages turn. My mother died 60 years ago; few people who knew her remain alive.
We don’t like to think of ourselves dying—our lives erased by time. One function of religion is to soften the blow of obliteration. Mormonism is especially strong in this regard. We do genealogy—collect information on ancestors, record family histories, write our own memories—and alleviate the fear of being forgotten. Harmless activities—unless nostalgia for the past and hope for the future crowd out the present.