Today we put my DH's Mum's ashes to rest with his Dad. My DH spoke so beautifully about his belief that the 2 of them are together now, and that his Mum no longer has her shuffle or her slurred speech (she had Parkinsons) and that the 2 of them were dancing together (they were beautiful dancers).
After the brief ceremony we went back to one of his sister's houses to sort through the remaining boxes of his mother's stuff. A lot of the everyday items were sold or given to family when she moved into the nursing home a few years ago, but there were about 10 boxes of varying sizes that she would not part with. So my s-i-l had stored them at her place just in case my m-i-l wanted anything - she never did, but that was her wish.
It took around 3 hours for us to choose what each of us wanted to keep - there was no fighting over any of these things - everyone was open and honest about what they wanted and what they didn't. However what became apparent to me and left me with a sense of sadness, was that the items taken were so few in comparison to the items available. So the pile of items going to the antique/second hand dealer is large and I am sure there is some items that are worth something in a monetary sense but the tragedy is that they also are worth far more in a sentimental and family sense. She had kept all her precious wedding presents - most never used. There was some jewelry, some of it her mothers and some of it hers - but none of the family knew which was which or why some of the other items she has felt so passionately about keeping were kept. They meant something to her, but nothing to us.
So please talk to your children about the past, show them the things that mean a lot to you, tell them the stories of your mother's jewelry or grandmothers buttons, or whatever it is. For if like us today, you don't know the stories - you can not feel a connection to that which is left behind. My m-i-l was never a great talker, and so if this is you, then take a photo and write down a note to explain and leave it with the item - anything to give your children and grandchildren a window to the past and a chance to connect. For once it is gone it is gone - there were some beautiful pieces of china that I am sure had stories to go with them, it is just we never heard the story when my m-i-l was alive and so to us they were just bits of china - nothing more, nothing less, but to her they must have meant a lot.