WHEN MY FATHER DIED in 2012, my mother gave me his wedding ring as a keepsake—but I lost it. I turned my house upside down trying to find it. When my mother was alive, I prayed she wouldn’t ask to see the ring, because I didn’t know what I’d tell her.
I felt terrible that I had lost something that meant so much to my father, and I was upset with myself for not taking better care of it. I know that I’m terrible when it comes to protecting my valuables. Like a dog that hides his bone, I hide things in my house—but forget where.
Some weeks ago, I was cleaning out my condo, as I prepared to move to my new home. I noticed a small plastic bag tucked in the back corner of a drawer. Yes, it was the missing ring. What a relief. I could breathe again.
While cleaning out my condo, I discovered other missing items:
Why am I so careless with things of monetary value? I’m not a careless spender. I’m a saver who knows the value of a dollar. And yet I misplaced my father’s ring, which was not only a valuable item, but also a cherished possession.
That said, the thing that reminds me most of my father is not his wedding ring, but rather the garden clippers he used to trim plants in the yard. My father loved working in his yard. My mother would kid him about over-trimming the bushes.
I still use those same clippers when I’m gardening. When I hold those clippers, I swear I can see him—and touch him. He comes to life every time I grab those clippers.
The same thing happens when I look at my mother’s favorite shoes, which I keep in the same closet where I keep my shoes. Those shoes bring back memories of her going for her daily walk and the places we visited together. I can’t think of anything else that would remind me more of my mother than those shoes.
Sometimes, when we’re doing our estate planning, we get so involved with the financial side that we lose track of other things that might have special meaning for our loved ones. It could be your favorite writing pen, a purse or a photograph. After you’re gone, those possessions may help friends and family members deal with their grief.
Although I’m grateful for the financial benefits I received from my parents’ estate, I know it isn’t the money that brings back the most memories. Instead, it’s the things that have little or no value.
Indeed, we should have conversations with our loved ones not just about money, but also about the things that they may cherish in our absence. I know my parents would never believe that an old pair of shoes and the garden clippers would mean so much to me.
Dennis Friedman retired from Boeing Satellite Systems after a 30-year career in manufacturing. Born in Ohio, Dennis is a California transplant with a bachelor’s degree in history and an MBA. A self-described “humble investor,” he likes reading historical novels and about personal finance. His previous articles include Keeping My Balance, School’s in Session and Be Prepared. Follow Dennis on Twitter @DMFrie.