When somebody passes away there is always "the box". It's in the back of an attic, down in the bottom drawer, or bestowed to a son or daughter in the will.
However the dusty crate makes its way to the living, looking through the items is often an eerie experience. There always seems to be uncertainty about whether the person was proud or ashamed of these things.
In some deaths there is time and notice. The person can get their affairs in order, choreograph who gets what, hide away the embarrassing things and divvy out the proudest trinkets.
Some deaths, though, come suddenly. There is no time to make calculations about the objects with that kind of passing.
For the living, the results of uncovered items can be a concoction of surprise, disgust, and sudden understanding.
"A morbid collection of about 20 teeth, clutches of different colored hair in little plastic bags, a bunch of what looked like fingernail clippings in plastic baggies, and a four-inch dried and twisted up stalk of something with a bow-clip attached in the middle."
"Upon closer inspection, you could see these very tiny markings or labels on almost every item."
"The teeth; they were [her son's] baby teeth and his brother Ron's baby teeth (Ron passed away a year before Thelma) and apparently the tooth fairy had helped [her] collect each one."
"The bags of hair were all labeled differently; 'My sister Jane funeral 1947,' 'Ron 1st haircut 1950,' 'Rich 1st haircut 1953,' 'Mom funeral 1962,' 'Aunt Mabel funeral 1964,' 'sister Dorothy Jane funeral 1965,' etc."
-- Becci Winkler
A Pristine Artifact of an Ugly Age
"Folded neatly inside, on top of a shelf, was the uniform of what we later found out was a Major in the SS. The tunic, cover, slacks, medals and insignia looked like they had been kept clean and maintained. It looked like it had been freshly dry-cleaned and was ready to wear."
"Under the shelf were several drawers, and in each one were his Ausweis, SS identity cards, daggers, commissions, promotion to the SS Medical Corps, and letters from superior officers; one was even signed by whom we later learned was Heinrich Himmler."
"There were also a significant quantity of Gold Krugerrands which he had obviously put aside for an emergency."
"The man who would have been my father-in-law was an SS Doctor who, I now believe, had worked under Mengele at one of the camps."
-- Patrick Parrish
It All Makes Sense
"My uncle Don was an odd guy. It wasn't until my teen years that I really understood that."
"When I was younger, he was friendly to me, so that was enough. He was a loner, particular, moody, intense, especially after he divorced and separated from his wife. No kids."
"When my parents went to clean out his home, among the heaps and mounds of a rotten life were dozens and dozens of high heeled shoes, both well- and never-worn, women's clothing, size XL, and a sturdy noose."
"It was a revelation that brought clarity to a lot of things: the solitude, the neighborhood, the sadness. I recall my parents both deeply rattled from the experience. Like someone might feel after watching a dog being hit by a car, traumatized, yet removed and either unable or unwilling to describe it in greater detail."
"Something that had occurred to me at various points in my adult understanding of people, was that Don had been in the seminary at the height of its pedophilia reign, when it ran wild and unchecked."
"Sure enough, Don was a student at St. Edward's Seminary. I found Father William Queenan's name in a database of abusive clergy with multiple accusers. The more I searched, the more certain and sad I became that this was the culminating experience that robbed Don of his ability for successful self determination."
-- Pam Patterson
"A very extended and detailed critique of my every word and movement. Even printed emails to a family friend who had been a confidant (but was close to my part of the family as well) that painted me as a terrible person."
"I began to question myself and wonder at who I really was. But some of the words she put in my mouth were bold faced lies and there were things she said I did that I knew I had not. In fact, some of the things she attributed to me had been things she had said or done."
Would Rather Not Have Known
"After mom broke the news to me that my dad passed away I went into his bedroom, remember it's the old days and quite often couples would have separate rooms and just meet for the conjugal part.
"I opened up my dad's large walk-in closet and went in observing all the different items in there and reminiscing and smelling."
"I saw this long white robe with this very distinct red white and black cross pattern and a goofy looking kind of hood hat I couldn't quite figure out what it was but it stuck with me and embedded so deeply that when I did see an actual KKK outfit I knew immediately what that was."
-- Fancee P Pearse
Evidence of Crisis
"My mom was an immaculate typist. She died in her 40's while much of her family was young (including me). Long after her death I was rooting through our basement for a prize; I heard that her journal was there."
"Here were hundreds of pages of journal, single spaced, typed and there was perhaps one error every 3 pages."
"It is filled with XXXXXX's, crossouts, notes in the margin. There are other errors that weren't caught. It was from a very dark part of the history of my parents' lives."
"A dark part that happened prior to my birth. My mom at that time, was struggling with her mental health. She knew it too. Had even asked to be committed, but we were far away from family and there were too many needs from her young kids and so she suffered."
-- Aaron Lassig
Wildly Organized Trash
"Boxes and boxes of used dead batteries, blown fuses, burned out light bulbs, broken household items, broken furniture, broken transistor radios, flashlights, Etc. All of these items were labeled with the date they stopped working. Why did my Mom and Dad keep garbage like that? I'm still confused."
-- Lisa Anne McBride
Couldn't Not Have This Story in the List
"Grandmother dies and Bonnie (ex-wife) goes to Winnipeg to help her mother sort through Grandmother's stuff and do what is needed."
"She gives me three pairs of knee-high socks which are still in their packets."
"I looked at the 3 packs of socks and decided to just open one of them for now and see how they felt. I opened the plastic covers and then felt the hard cardboard inner liners to help keep them stiff."
"I pulled out the inner liners BUT wait there is more; what is this? Wow, hundreds of dollars in Canadian bills."
"I fall back sitting on the bed and go WTF! My heart is beating strong as money will help a lot. I quickly count, then recount - nice there is $15,000."
"I was glad to give her the money to give back to the family... I cried a bit inside but was glad I did the right thing."
-- Bill Taylor
"A simple file hidden within my dad's personal files—past tax info, some stuff he was gathering from a genealogy site, and one other thing."
"So I began. I read, and I read. Then I read some more. I spent about 5 hours in our basement, lights off, in front of that glowing white screen that made my eyes ache. I read my dad's book."
"And it was flippin' amazing."
-- Rob Schark
Back Before the Trauma Set In
"Among them, a photo album. In the album, their were extremely disturbing and graphic pictures from the war. I'm not kidding—shocking images, heads blown open, bodies charred with napalm. People posing next to scenes of utter devastation and death."
-- John Kestell
When their True Character Comes Out
"What was the most disturbing to me was that my sister had removed much of my mom's belongings - almost as if I'd come and haul it all off."
"All her Waterford crystal collection and Belleek, and china sets, silverware were gone, so were the photos and jewelry, and a lot of other things, things that weren't nailed down. I'm sure my sister cleared out the place before I came."
-- Kathleen Grace
"Dark Family Secret"
"On the last day before closing, I emptied out her night table and found a yellowed envelope from a doctor dated sometime in the 1940s. Inside was a brief handwritten letter about my dad, confirming that he had epilepsy and was not qualified for driving or the draft."
"When my dad was asked about his exemption from the service, he always said it was because of flat feet."
"I mentioned the letter to my brother and he told me that one day, when he was a little boy, he saw our father rigid and unresponsive in his easy chair. He thought our dad was dead."
"My father's condition was a dark family secret."
-- Barrie Levine
A Record of Abuse
"My Mum died very suddenly at the age of 53. She'd had a massive brain haemorrhage caused by a berry aneurysm that just suddenly burst."
"I was given her possessions in a bag at the hospital. There was just her clothes and handbag and her mobile phone."
"The phone had got about 10 missed calls and voice messages. I listened to the messages. They were all from my Dad. Whilst she was dying my Dad had left several messages."
- "Ring me when you're on your way home."
- "Where are you, you should be home by now."
- "Would you mind calling me back and telling me where the f*ck you are?"
- "Where the f*ck are you, you f*cking bitch, answer your f*cking phone."
- "Get f*cking home right f*cking now.
- I've organised this holiday, and if you're f*cking late…you f*cking know what will happen when you get home."
"He obviously didn't know that I'd listened to these messages, and told everyone that their last conversation was, 'I love you, I'll see you soon.' "
-- Lucy Reid
Walls of Privacy Stripped Away
"Imagine a tornado hit your house. Inside. Add years worth of receipts and plastic bags, clothes, records, furniture, and stuff that belonged in the garbage, was strewn everywhere by this tornado. I had to look to find the bed. It was indistinguishable from the rest of the mess."
"Under the bed were tied-off, white plastic deli bags of cigarette butts. He'd empty the ashtrays but couldn't throw the bags of butts out."
"What was found that was even more of a surprise than the disastrous mess? Bank statements."
"He had millions in his account."
"He chose to live like that. Although choice may be the wrong word. I think it entirely possible he stayed there because if he moved, someone had to see the place. He probably couldn't bear the idea of anyone knowing how he lived."
-- Elizabeth Grey
Not Sure How Much it Helps the Case
"Several years ago as a police officer I was sent to deal with a report of the sudden death of a man in his thirties who was found deceased in the caravan he was living in."
"I was sorting through his personal possessions to try and find details of his next of kin when I came across a box full of Polaroid photographs."
"Also inside the box was a fairly interesting collection of rubber sex toys and vibrators, nipple clamps and cock rings."
But those Polaroid's were something else!
"Clearly the guy was well into the swinging/ bondage scene."
"There were photos of him in women's underwear, group sex, BDSM and a few other fairly strange and kinky group sex activities. I'm fairly broad minded and I've seen a lot of things before but some of this stuff was quite shocking."
-- Steve O'Boyle
A Sudden, Morbid Explanation
"Was cleaning out the large freezer and found the body of my aunt's favorite cat, Teddy. Now we know why she wouldn't let us get anything out of that freezer when we visited."
"She didn't want us to know she'd saved his body after he died and stored it there. He'd died several years before, and his uncleaned litter box was still in the bedroom she had kept shut since then."
"She slept on the sofa from then-on, only walked into her bedroom to grab something from time to time, and wouldn't let us go in there."
-- Arran Walker
"A membership card for the Roy Orbison fan club in my stepfather's name, and a box of Roy Orbison records and memorabilia. I think if you had given me a thousand guesses, I never would have imagined him as a Roy Orbison fan."
"A photo of my grandmother and my grandfather as a young couple posing in front of Huey Long's grave in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This must have been a long and expensive trip for a young couple during the Depression; I had no idea that they had such a devotion to Huey Long."
-- Mark Thomase
Ya Certainly Hope So...
"Well, no one really expects to find pills of crystal meth in their Opa's belongings. Obviously at some point he had gotten it from a soldier or some other military complex, because there's no other logical explanation."
-- Melody Bertrile
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