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Milt Hankins: Downsizing helps reveal what's important

Mar. 15, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

Hanging in our living room is a splendid saying I bought, framed, and gave to my wife several years ago. It says, "When I say 'I am going home,' I mean I am going to where you are." It's superfluous to say we treasure it.

A few weeks ago, we sold our home and began the onerous task of moving. While packing our "hanging," it dawned on me that it could have as easily read, "When I say 'I am going home,' I mean I am going to where my stuff is!" Renting a much smaller house, we were required to downsize drastically. And then the fun began!

Of course, most of the "stuff" I chose to discard was HER stuff -- her great-grandmother's china which we never used for fear of damaging it, artifacts from her infancy, i.e. booties, bonnets and shoes, and unfinished projects her father began and never completed. On the other hand, it was I who grabbed up the mantle clock her father gave to her just before he passed away at Christmas time.

We had an enormous collection of souvenirs we had brought back from our adventures to various parts of the world. Many of them had never made it to friends we had planned to give them to. It was difficult to part with any of them. Less difficult to give up were boxes of old photographs we could no longer identify! The problem was solved with two boxes: one into which we pitched relatives and friends we knew; one for distant relatives no longer remembered or were identifiable!

Now, we are wondering why we dragged all of this "stuff" from place to place over the years of our marriage. We feel so unburdened. We also feel pretty sad. On the other hand, I know now that the original "saying" has much more meaning than I had previously assigned to it.

When we move into our new home and hang "When I say 'I am going home,' I mean I am going to where you are," the meaning will be significantly enhanced. In other words, I can part with "things," albeit with difficulty; but there's one thing I cannot ever part with and be the same person I am now, and that is my wife.

For three decades I dragged her from place to place, from job to job, from church to church and she never ever once resisted a move, believing as I did that we were supposed to go wherever we were called. Each move was a completely new adventure -- sometimes enjoyable, sometimes not so pleasant.

Now I am, for all intents and purposes, retired. More and more of the decisions and choices fall upon my wife to make. I draw a great deal of my strength and fortitude from her. She watches over me as surely as a heavenly angel.

Our latest adventure begins with hard work and great hopes. Oh, last week, we bought ourselves a new car!

Milt Hankins of Ashland, Ky., is a retired minister, theologian and freelance writer.

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