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For The Last Time By: Margaret R. Wilder

I moved to a new thriving Texas town so booming in the oil business that it’s hard to find a place to live. While living in temporary housing, I visited a multitude of homes with my realtor. Weeks stretched into months. I could not find an affordable home that was right for my family.

A bit glum and almost discouraged, late one evening I found an intriguing real estate listing:

“For Sale, AS IS, WHERE IS. All furniture, appliances, and vehicle will pass with the sale. No repairs, as is sale.”

Strange. I thought. I wonder why?

Questions flooded my mind. The house is affordable in a town where real estate is sky high...I wondered if it is a deal or a dog?

I sent a text message to my realtor requesting more information about the house.

My realtor replied,

Just listed! $153K! That’s a cash offer with EVERYTHING in it. Showed it today. It was a circus in there with everyone looking at it....So many people.
Needs work but in good shape nothing too major.

Hummm... I thought.

Big yard. Lots of potential. There is even a car in the back yard that stays!
Is this a divorce situation or death?”
I don’t know, but I’m assuming death.

The next morning my realtor took me to visit the house, apparently the circus had left town since there were no other buyers there, only me.

An elderly couple had lived in this home for many years. The personal items left in the home indicated that Grandpa had died long ago.

Granny had saved lots of his stuff—then Granny died.

A flurry of questions ran through my mind. Did she not have kids? Or did her children live out of state? Perhaps they were unable to deal with what their parents left behind. Or did they not want to deal with it at all?

There were no photos in the house just blank white walls with a several simple paintings hanging in the living room—the listing agent or a family member had made a flimsy attempt to sanitize the former owner's memory from the home by removing photographs, but everything else was there. Clothing hanging in the closets. Mixed up shoes on the closet floor.

Personal items were in plain sight everywhere, but the elaborate family Holy Bible had been crammed into the bottom of the China cabinet like a hidden relic of remembrance reduced to scrap. Tons of personal belongings filled this home, but someone hid this unwanted heirloom of faith. Why? It was beautiful. Nobody wanted to save Granny’s Bible? Nope! It was just part of the sale with everything else.

I peered into the top of the China cabinet. Granny’s special crystal was extremely dusty as if it had not been used in years.

However, the dining room table was fully dressed with golden accents for the winter holidays. It sparkled.

Extra Christmas decorations, gold chargers, and red napkins were neatly stacked in the sideboard. And to top it all off—an 8 foot fully decorated artificial Christmas Tree completely shadowed the dining room window and it was AUGUST!!!

Walking toward the bedrooms I stopped to check out a hall closet. Unexpectedly it housed a huge humming icky icebox stocked with meat and pot pies. The closet light was broken, so I could not investigate further.

Granny’s bedroom was extremely large. Adorning her bed was a baby blue silken comforter with little champagne colored roses that she probably bought from Fingerhut in the 1980’s. The bedroom included a sitting room with mirrored doors and a tan leather couch. Her closet was stuffed to the gills. I wondered if some of her dresses were from Spiegel.

Her favorite books were carefully lined up on the top shelf. A quick glance revealed she owned several of the same titles that I have in my collection.

A mammoth projection TV was in the livingroom, but there were no TVs in Granny’s bedroom. No DVDs or VHS videos were in her collection. Perhaps she just enjoyed TV programming in her livingroom.

The master bath was dimly lit and felt filmy and dirty and I wasn’t even touching anything. Discolored yellowish paint was peeling from the gross looking shower ceiling along with patches of old black mildew.

10 versions of her favorite nail polish were still in the bathroom cabinet along with grandpa’s cologne and a hundred other jumbled up items.

The hall bathroom was completely unusable, many horrible discolored orange tiles were still attached to the grimy shower wall while many others were missing and the tub was rusted out.

All the bedroom furniture was from the 60’s or 70’s. It was all decrepit and would need to be thrown out, but I just could not get past the tons of rat feces in the guest bedroom hiding between the neatly made up bed and the wall. UGH! If this is what I could see, what was hiding beyond my view?

With the realtor beside me, I walked to the kitchen and opened the fridge. It was full of half eaten food.

No one is living in the house?”
No. No one lives here. The owner died recently.
How long ago???
I don’t know.
Well, it could not have been that long ago cause that bananna on the counter is not black yet!!!

Dear me! Was this woman’s house put up for sale before the banana on her counter turned black???

Nobody mentioned that banana yesterday. You are really observant.

Next the realtor led me out the aged peach-colored wooden back door to check out the unimpressive back yard that was full of patches of brown grass and red dirt spots. The previous owner’s white Pontiac Sunbird was engulfed by scraggly weeds as if it had not been touched in months. I waded through the prickly thicket and peered through the car windows. It was full of piles of miscellaneous items from the last time Granny drove it. The sun-bleached news papers in the back seat told me a story that I did not need to read. They screamed, “I have been disregarded as trash” along with everything else in that car—and the car itself.

As I walked around the back of the house, it was apparent the home was in dire need of repair. It would cost a small fortune to repair the roof and termite eaten wood. There was no easy fix here.

I walked back through the creaky back door and viewed the sunken living room and expansive fireplace and mused that back in its day, this was a beautiful unique home. It was Granny’s palace.

However, now it was only a shadow of its former glory.

I felt sad for Granny then wondered...will my kids do this to my stuff? Will a circus of strangers decend on my house like razor-toothed Piranhas when I’m gone?

My mind snaped back to the present and shouted: No Margaret, that will never happen. Your kids know you have little treasures stashed in your “safe” places that you can’t even find—maybe nothing a stranger would value, but perhaps something they would treasure.

I walked back through the house contemplating the overwhelming mountain of debris left behind. The furniture in the living and dining rooms was much more updated than the bedroom furmiture, but none of it was my style.

I noticed that many of the baseboards were missing throughout the house and holes the size of nickels had been drilled and then backfilled in order to treat termites. Next I found a 12” x 12” hole in the living room wall hiding behind a painting. The hole was an access point for a past plumbing repair as the green filmy bathroom shower was on the other side of the wall.

It seemed the contents of many closets had been untouched. So many items were piled up from yesteryear. No one had gone through every little thing. The thought of buying the place was unsettling especially since there were roof, plumbing, and other serious issues. Basically, all sheetrock needed to be removed and the house stripped down to it’s good old bones and rebuilt.

I walked back into the master bedroom. I pulled back the curtain. The window was cracked and there was a large hole in it.

Thick brownish red dust that resembled red Georgia clay covered all the window sills 1/4 inch thick. What used to be delicate white sheer curtains were now filthy, stiff, and pink from the red dust particles. They had not been washed in years! It was apparent—Granny had been much too ill to clean house.

Something happened that day when she left the house.

Where did she go?

What did she do?

What was important to her?

What did she worry about?

Did she leave on her own two feet, or did they carry her out?

She didn’t die there. They say she didn’t die at home.

I don’t what happened that day when she left the house—but when she left—she left it for the last time.

And the day I left that house, I also left it for the last time. I couldn't get out of there fast enough!!!

I was overwhelmed. I thought I went there looking for a place to live, but instead I was reminded of something way more important—how to live.

So what is a house anyway? And more so, what is all that stuff we value so much? It is nothing really. It is just stuff.

I ponder this quote by J.R. Miller:

Far more than we know, do the strength and beauty of our lives depend upon the home in which we dwell. He who goes forth in the morning from a happy, loving, prayerful home, into the world’s strife, temptation, struggle, and duty, is strong--inspired for noble and victorious living. The children who are brought up in a true home go out trained and equipped for life’s battles and tasks, carrying in their hearts a secret of strength which will make them brave and loyal to God, and will keep them pure in the world’s severest temptations.

So a house is but brick, mortar and wood, but a “home” shapes our children’s and grandchildren’s lives minds, and hearts.

Several months ago an acquaintance confessed, "My biggest fear is that I will be forgotten after I die." I was quite shocked as she seems extremely professional and confident. I didn’t know how to wrap my head around her statement as this type of thought has never entered my mind. However, I know many people struggle with different fears. Nonetheless, I presume this deep concern causes her to carefully consider the choices she makes and actually causes her to live in such a way that she is and will always be unforgettable.

Most importantly, we should all ponder the scripture below as who knows? We could be pondering it for the last time.

A good name is better than precious perfume, And the day of one’s death better than the day of one’s birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning Than to go to the house of feasting, For that [day of death] is the end of every man, And the living will take it to heart and solemnly ponder its meaning.

Ecclesiastes 7:1-2

If you are a Christian you know when you close your eyes for the last time you will be in the prescence of God. If you have not accepted Christ, it’s time to prepare.

Most of all, in regard to our loved ones we have lost in death, the promise below is very comforting!

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

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Copyright: For The Last Time, Margaret R. Wilder, 2018

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