My Visit to an Estate Sale


Sunday, my hubby and I walked down the street to an estate sale of a lady who died about a month ago.

Her name was Dolores and she was a Christian. She was housebound from many ailments, had a home church, had a yappy fluffy puppy. She had neighbors who came and helped her with laundry, moving garbage cans, made visits, cut her grass. Her husband died many years ago. I’m told she told everyone who would listen she was ready to go home and be with her Tom.

They had no children and a friend who no longer lived in the neighborhood was her executor of her estate.

I met her once, while I was on a walk with another neighbor, she was sweet, she knew right away I was a child of God.

A professional company put on the estate sale and I had never been to one.

I never want to go to one again. I never want my kid to sell my stuff in an estate sale.

It was almost surreal walking thru her house, looking thru her things. The house was left pretty much the way she left it when she went to the hospital to die. Her body was riddled with cancer and they could not save her after they performed surgery.

The estate sale company went thru the neighborhood passing out flyers to whomever they saw on the street, I just happened to be on the street that day.

As I walked thru the house I learned so many things about her.

He was in the military.

They both won awards when he was in the military (pictures and awards framed on the wall)

They loved Chinese artwork, china, silver. (they had tons of Japanese and Chinese artwork, clothes, china, dishware, books in every room)

She loved books, she loved to learn. Bookcases full of books in every room. She had diplomas from colleges, at-home learning centers, bible course studies, art college, all on the wall. She had a word processor, tons of christian tapes, DVDs, learning CDs, music books, cookbooks, books on how to learn. (She must have been still trying to learn new things even when her body could not work for her very well)

Let me go from room to room.

Living room:  a nativity scene made from wood, books, furniture, from the Orient (they must have traveled there, or may even been stationed there) paintings on the wall, oriental and what I would call ‘american’.

Dining room: contained all the silver and a woman had a glass case with all Dolores’ jewelry in it. Most of it old. A few pieces I would have liked. All way over- priced. China cabinet with knick knacks.

Kitchen: the cupboards were taped open revealing all her cookware and silverware, china set, beautiful. Even the food cupboard was open and food for sale for 50 cents an item. Things were sitting there just like they had been when she was alive. I got a bit teary-eyed in the kitchen. Some things were even just strewn around, but everything had a price. A full bookcase in the corner of the kitchen with cookbooks.

They was 3 bedrooms and 2 baths. The bedroom she used was the first I went in to. I’m drawn to bookcases, I look for bibles (I also collect very old bibles for myself). I found her old bible. With all her notes it in.  I grabbed it. (To me, that bible is something so personal and it was just sitting on the shelf for anyone to grab, I can only hope she is glad I took it)

There are poems and funeral notices in there. Her husbands funeral notice was there. There was two cards in there that had a bunch of men’s signatures on them. It was a prayer card, it stated that at the men’s church breakfast, they had prayed for her surgery to go well. The other one was for her husband.

The clothes were hanging in the closet, all with  price tags, the drawers were open for people to go thru. Even her underwear drawer. Some very beautiful and old things, a fur coat, some Japanese silk jackets, old suits, tiny little ballet type shoes.

One bedroom was her music room with one wall full of records, tapes, books, albums, sheet music, computer, paintings.

I learned more about this woman with each room I explored.

One bedroom was her art/craft room. There was cross stitch, embroidery, yarn, items she had worked on were thrown on the bed with extra sets of sheets, an embroidered piece with a man and woman in wedding attire with their names and date of their wedding was laying on the bed.

I’m tearing up just typing this. I will tell you why in a moment.

The bathrooms looked like she just walked out of it after taking a shower in the morning. In one of the bathrooms, a thing woman use for hygiene purposes was just laying on the floor in the box, for all to see. Soap was in the holder, toothbrush, etc.

I had noticed a lot of paintings on the walls, in every room. When I walked back out into the hallway, I realized these were HER paintings (there was a diploma from an art school on the wall) and I just had to have one. If nothing else but to keep her memory.

I had a landscape painting in my hand, then, in a back bedroom, I found the perfect one.


Let me skip ahead; my hubby was getting tired and wanted to go home, but I was fascinated by this house, by this lady’s life. This woman was probably a wonderful, exciting,  interesting woman.

And I just walked by her house, most every day.

And did nothing. I knew she needed help, I knew she was lonely and alone.

I had thought about it many times, but was good does that do now?

All the while I’m thinking and looking around there are people from the estate sales company milling around, making sure you’re not jacking anything of value. Some asshole (yes, I said asshole, twice now) said to another in a very loud voice “So, we gotta carry all this SHIT out of the house?”

My heart fell. I wanted to punch him. This was not someones shit, this was someones life here. Being dug thru by strangers. Her stuff being milled thru and sold for a price. To pay for this asshole to carry off.

The garage had all of the husbands stuff in it. All of it dusty. Some art/crafts stuff, bottle cutters, Christmas wreaths, clothes pins, tools, lawn furniture. There was bottles of water in a box. A big pot with birdseed and a scoop in it.

I said to hubby “Look, she fed the birds” He just doesn’t get it. {I’m not quite sure what happened to her dog, I’m told it went back to the person who gave it to Dolores. I saw only 2 things that even hinted that she had a dog. A small purse-like dog carrier in the bedroom and a dog dish in the garage. She loved that dog dearly.}

He was not fascinated by this woman or her house, he had found what he wanted and wondered how we were gonna carry all  the books home.


We found this stool in the kitchen, it is to be hubbies work stool in the garage.

I bought Shakespeare complete works, several bibles, a German bible and 2 very old bibles, some with both their names on them. she had marked every single bible, under lined and highlighted, lots of stuff, many notes and poems and prayers in all the bibles, all handwritten. And I bought the painting.

I imagine it is her or her husbands plot and that he or she wanted to be buried near the mountains.

Now, to get why I think this:

I was getting ready to leave and heard this little old woman talking and telling another woman and her daughter about Dolores. She knew her! She was pointing out the clothes, the books, the coats and where everything came from. I grabbed the painting and followed her to a back room. I waited patiently for her to finish and asked her did she knew if Dolores had painted that picture.

She said “Yes, she did, that was her last complete painting, she started another one but never finished it”

Here’s another thing, we paid for the stuff in the front room, the before mentioned asshole was sitting in the front on the other side by the front door. When we walked to the door, he asked to see our receipt. I’m like ‘what?’ Cuz he had just watched us pay and bag the stuff up.

Another fella says ‘We have had a pricey item already walk out with someone, he really is checking your receipt.’


Disclaimer: While I realize all this is just ‘stuff’ and I know she is in heaven with her Lord and her husband and that’s all that matters to her now.

I also know I walked thru the life of a woman today, a woman who lived a full life, who loved her Lord, who could have taught me much.

I should have made an attempt to know this woman.

She would have been a wonderful friend.

She would have made me a better person.

Here is the poem I found in her bible. It’s handwritten and some words are marked out with changes on them.

To a Small Boy

When oer these troubled waters pass

a spanking infant breeze to cast

away the angry torment of the sea

And there’s a hope of cloudless blue

of cheery dawns sunset hues

and the ship of life is sailing hard a lee

Then to you from this helmsmans hands

with course well laid to promised lands

will pass this ship well found, well manned, and free

Look sharp upon the charts of strife

heed wise the shallow shoals of life

Maintain the course, my faith abides in thee.

Thanks for listening, Kristina

7 responses »

  1. Kristina,
    Not sure if I can express myself accurately, but the feeling that comes to mind is the word “dignity” By your intentionally picking up a couple of this woman’s most prized possessions (her bible, and her last completed picture, you were expressing honor and dignity to her as a person. I’m glad it was you…I’m sure if she were still alive and HAD to part with these things she would have been pleased to pass them on to you…like when the elderly lady who owned the house where we live was dying, my aunt stepped forward to say she would give a good home to the woman’s favorite cat… you stepped forward and said you would keep her most prized possessions, and now you have celebrated her life with us via your words here…in a very real way, you have expressed love to her….this is good.
    Good word picture by the way for those clowns who were griping about carrying out the stuff (A.H.) 😉

    ~~the weird thing, i didnt go in there with the idea of getting her most prized possessions. Ya go to a garage sale to get you want. when i wrote this post, i was lamenting in my brain the fact i didnt get to know her better. You all that commented saw something i didnt.
    Thank you for that. I’m glad I took the painting, It will hanf in my art/craft room (when all the remodeling is done) reminding me to love one another.

  2. I too have been through an experience like this, I had been helping some families restore their photos after the flood in Centralia, it is strange, emotional and sad to see the “things” of a lifetime, strung out for someone to pick through or destroyed by floods, fires, and the like. I’m glad you were there to preserve some of her things.

  3. :/

    Thanks for sharing that.

    You know, I love (certain) antique stores for some of the same reasons you expressed. Not the ones boasting four million (pointless) shot glasses, huge, gaudy brooches, or never-heard-of-for-a-reason old, musty novels. And not the ones with waaaay overpriced “showcase” items, that will be purchased, not to give it a new, loving, homey life of renewed usefulness, but only for prestige and greed. I love the shops filled with hand-embroidered linens (a little on the pre-loved side), lavishly illustrated cookbooks (fingerprinted and still flour-dusty with years of use), beautifully colored mixing bowls (not “classic,” “retro” styles, brand new at Macys, but the real deal)–a little scuffed on the edges, because they served a husband, children, and grandchildren hundreds of cookies over the years. I love the stuff full of mysterious memories–ones I’ll never know–but that, instead of completing my “collection,” inspire me to love on my loved ones with the same care with which these treasures were broken in.

    And yeah, the best Bibles are the ones you can hardly read, for just-plain-reading’s sake, for all the notes and markings throughout. They’re more… monuments to a life of faith, to strengthen, teach, and encourage those in the faith who come along behind. They are truly priceless.

    It’s cool that you did know Delores, a little. Those things would be treasures even if you hadn’t. But they’ll be good reminders to live your life to be the next Delores–and not to let any other sweet, godly elderly ladies slip by ya. 🙂

    I needed that.
    Love ya.

  4. Oops, “Dolores.” Know what that name means?
    Wish it weren’t such an old lady name, hehe. Maybe it’s my inner Catholic self that wants to name a daughter for the “Via Dolorosa.” Sorrow–but sweet sorrow.


  5. That’s a wonderful but bittersweet story…It is a shame that her “stuff” ended up that way….but at least you were given a flyer and knew what would be important…;)

  6. With my job I’ve had to go to lots of estate sales. I have that same feeling of sadness oftentimes. I am also fortunate to have met a wonderful auctiondealer. He likes to talk to family and friends an inject a bit of a life story into the items he is auctioning off. I like that he takes the time to get to know the deceased.

    I’m like you – I am drawn to books. When I read books, I often write in them. Underline things that touch me. Jot notes in the margin. I love to pick up books at yard sales, estate sales, or wherever – places where people have written in their books. For that one moment, I feel connected to this stranger by the words on the pages. As if we are somehow sharing a conversation. I like that. I bet Dolores loves that you shared her words with others too.

    ~~thanks for the comment, Enola 🙂

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