Dave's Treasures

A couple of days ago, I had the opportunity to accompany my dad to my grandparents' house.  This particular visit was different than any other.  It was not accompanied by the usual excitement and anticipation of visiting Grandma and Grandpa--rather, it was filled with a different kind of anticipation: it would be my first visit to my grandparents' house since the passing of my sweet grandfather.  As I climbed the all-too-familiar steps leading to my grandparents' front door, I was flooded with memories of my grandpa.  For the first time, the reality of his absence started to sink in.  There would be no Grandpa on the other side of this door.  No Grandpa in his recliner reading his daily newspaper.  No Grandpa to greet me with a hug and a "How ya doing, Kelli? Oh, it's good to see you!"  My heart ached, but I had promised myself not to cry in front of my grandma--not today.  I knew today would be one of the harder days since my grandpa's passing. I swallowed the feelings fighting their way to the surface, threatening to spill my eyes over with tears, as my grandma opened the door.

My grandma welcomed us in and hugged both me and my dad.  We looked around and commented on the beautiful and familiar Christmas decorations throughout her household.  We small-chatted.  All the while trying to ignore the sinking feeling that was starting to set in.  It was time to do what we came here to do.  It was time to clean out Grandpa's belongings.

My dad led the way upstairs.  The first room I saw was my grandpa's office.  Immediately I felt stifled. The room that was the very essence of my grandpa tore at my heart strings.  I looked away and let out a shaky breath.  I can do this. Be strong for Grandma. 

Immediately, my dad started to direct tasks.  "Kelli, you help me in the closet.  We will take the clothes off of the hangers, and hand them to Grandma and Aunt Sherry to fold and put in the bags. Don't forget to check pockets!"  I understood my dad's intention: the more logistic and matter-of-fact we make this, the easier it will be--especially for Grandma.  I started to take the clothes off of the hangers.  I willed myself not to think.  Not to think of the memories I had of Grandpa in these clothes.  Not to think that Grandpa wouldn't need these clothes any more.  Not to think that I wouldn't see Grandpa again in this life.  Don't think, Kelli.  Take the shirt off of the hanger.  Check pockets. Fold.  Hand to Aunt Sherry.  Take the shirt off of the hanger. Check pockets. Fold. Hand to Aunt Sherry.  Take the shirt off of the hanger. Check pockets. Fold. Hand to Aunt Sherry.

I frequently looked at Grandma out of the corner of my eye.  I was afraid to make eye contact.  I was afraid I wouldn't be strong enough to hold it together.  Just thinking about what my Grandma must be feeling was breaking my heart.  How do you clean out the closet of your sweetheart of 61 years?  How do you remove his clothes, his watches, his toothbrush? How do you cope with the knowledge that he isn't coming back?  Unannounced, my grandma left the room a few times.  We all sensed that she was composing herself so she could return to the task that needed to be completed.

During one point, my dad sent me downstairs to grab something.  I didn't realize my grandma was also downstairs.  I heard her in the kitchen, sobbing softly.  My heart broke, my eyes watered, but I refused to linger.  I knew she needed her time to compose.  I knew she had left the room to be on her own for a reason.

So far, I had managed not to let any tears spill over.  I took a deep breath.  It was time to clean out the closet in Grandpa's office.  I walked in for the first time.  It was hard to breath.  I felt him in this room.  This room was always "Grandpa's."  And then I saw it.

Grandpa's wooden block calendar that he never failed to change every day.  I can't ever remember a time when the blocks weren't changed to reflect the correct date.  And yet, here they were. Unchanged. Stuck on the day that Grandpa had his heart attack.  Stuck on the last day that Grandpa would ever change the blocks.  I ran my hands over those blocks.  And this time, I couldn't will the tears back. With my hands on the blocks, I sobbed quietly on my own in my Grandpa's office.  Grandpa--do you know how much I love you?

After more cleaning, the task was finally finished.  So much of grandpa still littered the house, but his clothes were in bags ready to be taken to Deseret Industries.  My dad told my grandma that he would be back next week to go through the garage.  We all headed to the garage to see what would need to be done.  We opened cupboards and scanned the neatly-labeled-boxes that lined the ceiling.   Among box labels such as "tools" "great-grandma's-salt-and-pepper-shakers" "film" and "bike gear," one particular box caught my eye: "Dave's Treasures."

"Dad--what do you think is in that box? Can we pull it down?"  My dad agreed--the curiosity had us all gripped.  What could be important enough to be labeled as "treasures?"  My aunt joked that it would be money.  My grandma was sure it was little trinkets from his childhood.  My guess was documents and diplomas.  My dad climbed the ladder and carefully handed the box down to me.   I carried it into the living room and began to open the lid.  My excitement was bubbling over.  What could be inside!?  As I lifted the lid off of my grandpa's box of treasures, I saw something unexpected.

Inside the box were letters upon letters addressed to Grandpa from his grandchildren.  The tears immediately began to fall as the realization set in: Grandpa had carefully saved every letter us grandkids had ever sent him.  Every birthday card.  Every anniversary card.  Every "hello!" letter.  Every thank you letter.  Every memory.

As I began to sift through these keepsakes, I was overwhelmed.  Simple things that may have been tossed by the wayside were carefully preserved as "treasures."  I found a small, ripped piece of paper with nothing on it, other than my little brother's name across the top.  My grandpa had dated the paper "2001."  This would have made my little brother four years old when he probably carefully and proudly scribbled his name for my grandpa to see.  Instead of throwing away the seemingly meaningless scrap of paper, my grandpa had saved it--as a treasure, no less!

Every newspaper clipping of his grandchildren.  Every "homework assignment" he was given by my sister each time they played "school" (their favorite game).  Every post-it-note message we wrote to grandpa while we played in his office.  He saved it all.

While looking through this box with wet eyes and cheeks, I realized that Grandpa KNEW.  He knew how much we loved him.  And boy--he loved US so very, very much.  So much so, that WE were his treasures.  Out of everything that he could have put in his box labeled "treasures," it was these things that he cherished most.  We were all choked with emotion as I pulled memory after memory out of this box.  Few words were said.  And yet so much was felt.

On the way home, I began thinking.  If I were given one box, one box labeled "Kelli's treasures" what would I put in it?  Would I have been as loving and sentimental as Grandpa and included keepsakes from my loved ones? Or would I unknowingly be more materialistic? My laptop, cell phone, camera, and expensive jewelry?  Of course, I (along with every one else) can quickly say that I treasure my loved ones more than my materialistic items.  But do I show that?  Do I spend more time worrying about materialistic things than I do about making and cherishing moments?

How is it that my grandpa was able to teach me such a valuable lesson even after his passing? With just a simple box--a box he left for no one in particular, a box he had no intention of anyone seeing, a box he never mentioned over the many years.   Isn't it interesting that his "treasures" which symbolized love, family, and memories are the few things that we actually KEEP as treasures when we pass to the other side? How was it that my 83-year-old grandpa was so in touch with what really mattered in life?

It is so easy to get caught up in "worldly things" these days. If today was my last day on earth, would my loved ones know what my lifetime treasures were, even without a box? The word "treasures" stands out to me. Do I treat my loved ones and sentimental moments as golden treasures? 

If you were to pack a box from what you treasured most TODAY, what would be in it? Did you treasure your materialistic items today? Or did you truly treasure your loved ones? Let's all make a vow to put less value on our worldly items and make our "box of treasures" more like "Dave's treasures."

I love you, Grandpa. 


  1. Love this! I'm going to link to this in my blog! Xoxo

  2. This was beautifully written Kelli--really, truly, beautifully written. Thank you for sharing such a special experience with all of us. I feel like I was right there with you and I'm grateful for what your Grandpa taught me through this as well. He must have been an incredible man, and I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you again for this post. You're awesome!

  3. Kelli,

    You are such a good writer. Your Grandpa sounds like a phenomenal man, thank you for sharing that story.


  4. This touched me so much, Kelli. I can't imagine what that experience must have been like...especially for your grandma. It made me remember what's most important and that you really never know when you'll lose someone you love so to treat every day like it's their last. I love you!


  5. How beautiful are you. Thank you for writing things that are often too hard to write. I was so touched.

  6. I just found your blog and im sobbing... I am so happy!! I was looking for lds blogs (i'm a church member here in Europe, Finland) and found yours through The Aitken fam blog. Thank you for all these amazing posts.