Hearses, U-hauls and Stuff, December 4, 1998

Last night I was playing 40 channels with the remote control and watched portions of a news program on divorce. Two segments caught my attention and sent the brain cells into motion.

Segment one: couple is sitting in a big conference room with an arbitrator, to try and split up the stuff and decide custody arrangements. The hostility is so intense that they have to be split into separate rooms. Hostility and emotion I can understand, but fighting over the stuff like that – Knick knacks and the end table which you could buy at a garage sale for a couple of bucks?

HEY. . . it’s just stuff. I work with lots of people who happen to have lots of stuff. Tons of stuff; Money, houses, cars, boats, planes; one even has a train, a real one. I know of a woman who has to call the insurance company whenever she takes her diamond out of the vault to wear. They charge her by the day. I seem to recall that it is in the neighborhood of 50 carats.

And then they die. And I go to funerals. Too many funerals actually. But it goes with the territory.

But you know what?

I still have not seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul.

And then the kids fight over the stuff.


Stuff… You want to know what is a great equalizer of stuff? A house fire.

I have a friend whose house burned to the ground last year. Well, almost to the ground. There was a room or two left, with CD’s melted, clothes covered in ashes and soot. But essentially, all the stuff was gone. Burnt to a crisp. Ashes to ashes.

Segment two – Corporate wife decides that when her husband retires, she retires from the marriage. Big deal in New York, because she has to fight tooth and nail for everything she is “entitled to.” They have one grown child after 33 years of marriage.They fight like hell, he offers her about 10%, she finally wins and gets half and their fight makes the cover of Newsweek. Two months after the divorce, he drops dead of a heart attack.

Her half was 44 million.

He could have made it simple, given her the 44 million; because something tells me, his hearse did not have a U-Haul either.

After the show I thought about my house and all the stuff that has accumulated here after almost 20 years. I got to thinking about what was really important in this house.

You want to know what pieces of stuff I treasure?


My grandfather’s home made inlaid checker board and the checker set he made for us to play with when we could not find the “real pieces.” He went out into the garage, took a broom handle and cut it into pieces which we painted black and red. But that stuff is important to me only because of the memories of a very kind old man.

Oh yeah, there is one other thing, the reproduction antique clock I made. It’s about the only thing I made in the house, so it is a part of me.


As for the rest of it, go ahead, take the stuff. The stuff does not hold the memories of kids and Christmas, of life and living.

At the end of the day, the difference you make in the lives of those around you is the stuff that will endure, perhaps for generations.

The rest of it, a good house fire will equalize


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