When we lose a loved one, they often leave behind a lifetime’s worth of belongings. Many times, these things don’t hold much significance – old receipts, clothes – but sometimes they can reveal things about their owner that you never knew.
While we can’t take material possessions with us when we perish, they certainly say a lot about the type of person we were on Earth…
These 13 people went on Reddit to share some of the most significant things they found in the belongings of their deceased loved ones.
“My Great-Grandfather was a horrible person, he beat his wife and children, was insanely cruel to the family pets, drank away what little money they had. Basically, if you have an image of ‘bad working-class husband from the 1940s’ then you have the right image for him.
All his life, he always wore long-sleeved shirts, he NEVER took them off in front of anybody and never rolled his sleeves up. He permanently wore a long-sleeved button-down shirt to the point where even my Great-Grandma had never seen him shirtless, he wore clothes even to bed.
What’s more, my Gran never really knew anything about him. She says she asked him when she was very little about why they never saw their grandparents from his side, and he hit her and told her not to ask stupid questions.
When he died, my Gran’s family didn’t have the money for a fancy undertaker and whatnot, so they brought his body home to wash him and dress him for the funeral. On taking his shirt off, they discovered that he was covered from the shoulders down in religious tattoos; giant crosses, bible verses, images of angels and devils, all with a theme of redemption, many of the tattoos contained text asking for forgiveness.
After asking around a bit at the funeral, my Gran was able to piece together some information about his earlier life. It turns out that her father had been born into a VERY abusive family, had run away at an early age, and had ended up living in a poorhouse where the children were ‘cared for’ by nuns, by ‘cared for’ they meant that they were beaten regularly to discourage any sinful behavior (there was also some evidence to suggest probable abuse) and schooled in the Bible rigorously.
His upbringing had obviously left it’s mental scars on the man, helping to make him the abusive jerk he became in later life, but his tattoos and later handwritten notes they found show that he was aware of what he was doing and knew that it was wrong.”
2. Little Bits Of Their Lives
“When my husband’s grandma passed and they were going through her house they found shoe boxes with everyone’s names on them. Inside were just the most random things, toys they had played with, recipes they liked, scraps of fabric from old blankets, just little bits of their entire lives in these boxes she had been collecting for years and years.
My husband brought his home and another one, which I thought was maybe one she had started for our son, but it was for me.
Obviously, she didn’t have my childhood stuff, but she had recipes I liked of hers, the ultrasound picture from the baby we lost, little Beauty And The Beast trinkets (my favorite movie), purple flowers.
It was so sweet and so touching to think that even though she only knew me for 10 years, she thought enough of me to put that box together. None of the other in-laws had one, just me. I loved her very much, and I truly enjoyed talking to her and hearing her stories.
I never realized until then that it meant so much to her and that she cared about me that way.”
3. Not Your Dad
“Family friend of ours. There are three sisters. Two are the spitting image of their father, but the youngest looked like she was adopted. Their father was a heavy drinker and beat the kids. He died when the youngest was about 5 or so.
When their mother died in her 90s they got together to clean out the house. They went through a lot of the usual stuff, but one box had all of the kids’ birth certificates and old pics in it. With the youngest daughter’s birth certificate, there were pictures of her, her mother, and Father Ed, the young priest at their church. Their mother used to go get counseling from him when her husband was being abusive. The older girls remembering being at the church all the time while their mom would go to the priest’s house and talk with father Ed.
By this point, they didn’t even have to see the resemblance between their youngest sister and Father Ed before they put it all together.”
4. You Learn To Live With It
“My sister committed suicide when she was 22 years old, I was three years older, so 25 at the time.
She wrote a suicide note on an old typewriter even though she had a computer. In it, she wrote she was sorry but since her last boyfriend had broken up with her she only had one friend left in life and sadly that person couldn’t be there for her right now.
It had been a rough breakup and she called me a few times but I was so busy, had a new girlfriend at the time and I was trying to take on other work at my job so every night I spent like 2 hours studying as well.
It was a stressful time with very little time left over for me. My sister asked me to come and visit her and just keep her company, she was feeling lonely and she really needed someone to talk to. And I promised that soon I could, maybe next weekend, but the weeks passed and I never found the time and then she committed suicide.
Growing up we had been like most other brothers and sisters, worst enemies and best friends at the same time.
The same year she turned 17 she moved to another part of the country for dance studies (ballet and just a whole lot I know almost nothing about) and she was very nervous, so I thought I should be kind to her so I made her a little crappy bracelet from a leather strip, and on it I had written ‘I love you sis.’
So when we were going through her apartment, that bracelet was on her living room table. I never thought I would see that again, I had expected her to throw it away on the way to the train the same day she left, but apparently, she kept it for 5 years and was something she had been looking at on the same day she took her life.
It was like a mental blow of some sort seeing that bracelet again, the memories flooded back – remembering how I swore when I made a mistake with the bracelet, my sister’s expression when she left, the color of her bags, of playing with her on the beach when we were young, of tearing up one of her coloring books because I was mad at her…
I struggled for a long time with self-blame, even though everyone said it wasn’t my fault and I can’t blame myself.
At the time it sounded to me like trying to help a drowning person by saying ‘don’t breathe in water it’s not good’ but I am much better now, I still visit my sisters grave on her birthday every year, planting some flowers, lighting a candle.
The pain never really goes away, but you learn to live with it. I still miss my sister but it’s around the holidays they really return. It is over 10 years ago now but it still feels like almost no time has passed between then and now.”
5. Supportive Dad
“When my Dad died, I was holding his hand in the hospital. My sister and Mom held the other, most of his family (his 3 siblings, nieces and nephews) were there. The day after we buried him, my mom hands me a letter that he wrote.
2 years before he passed, he had a double bypass and valve replacement, he didn’t expect to survive the procedure.
So he wrote letters to family and friends.
The first line said it all. ‘I love you and I am proud of the man you’ve become.’
The rest of the letter just was him telling me that my girlfriend at the time was not good for me and why he felt that way (he was correct). The day we buried him was the last day I actually responded/talked to her.
Her email asking why I wasn’t responding to her was it. I was mourning the loss of my Dad, whom I loved and he was more than that. He was a friend too. She tried to make it about her. No. Just no.
After that, I found lots of things. He had bought a Penn State T-shirt when I was choosing a college. I had wanted to go to architectural school and was rejected by the schools I wanted.
I was going to become a history teacher instead. Turns out a couple weeks after I sent in the stuff for Penn State, one of the schools contacted me and said that I was accepted (the letter was actually dated 3 weeks before, got lost in the mail for a bit), and I went to architectural school after all.
Never knew he bought that shirt until we found it cleaning out his closet. He kept a key-chain I had bought for him when I was 12. It was banged up, broken and all. It said ‘Any man can be a father, it takes someone special to be a Dad.’
It’s been 6.5 years and I miss him.”
6. He Knew
“When my husband died, we got on his phone to get phone numbers to make make the necessary calls to his friends. We found a text he had written me during the night right before he died, but never sent.
It read like a suicide note (apologizing to me, asking me to tell the kids he loved them), even though he had a heart attack.
Apparently, he knew he was having a heart attack, and instead of calling 911 or waking me up, he wrote the text, and went back to bed (laying next to me) to die.”
“I was kidnapped as a baby and when my mother was murdered in July of 2014, I found all of the legal papers and court transcripts from the fight to get me back. It was heartbreaking to read what my mother had to go through to get me back.
My very abusive father took me with force and then died when I was about 2 years old. She had to fight all of my siblings from him to get me back. It took her 5 years. I was 8 months old when he took me.
You see, I was a mistress baby, my father had 30 years on my mother, and my siblings are his adult children.
I’m the youngest of his children by 26 years. When he died one of my half sisters came from Georgia to Arizona to take me back to Georgia. My mother was 50 miles away from finding him when he died in an accident on I-10 in Arizona.
My father was not a good man, he was heavily involved in smuggling coke via big rigs and what not so he hid his money using my name. Because of this, my siblings fought for custody to get the cash. I was the reason their family was torn apart.
My mother’s murder was not related to what happened to me at all. The case was ruled a suicide but too much stuff doesn’t add up. Lots of things were missing from the house, the manner in which it happened doesn’t make sense.
She was known to be pretty eccentric but she would have never left me to deal with the things I’ve had to deal with. One of her missing weapons turned up in an unrelated crime on the other side of town.
It’s all pretty messed up and after a year of fighting to have the case opened back up I gave up. The house was sold shortly after everything happened, she’s in a jar on my dresser and I am left to figure out how to navigate this situation on my own.”
“My uncle had a little trouble with the law before and ended up serving almost a year in jail. He did a little time before that, a week or two whatever. But this kind of hit home for him that the way he was going was not a good one. I do want to stress he was overall a really good guy. He treated me more like a son than a nephew. My own dad left when I was really young.
So anyway, he passed away and about a year later, his mom (my grandmother) passed away as well. My grandma would always stress to write him letters when he was in prison and I did too, but not as much as I should have. When she died, we were going through her closet and found a big box full of letters.
She never had much money, but apparently, she made sure to keep enough money on his ‘books’ so he could afford to send as many letters as he wanted because there were tons. At least 3 a week or so.
I read a few and it was heartbreaking. How he felt horrible for missing out on time with his kids and he talked about how he missed the little things like how me and him would toss a football around in the front yard. In nearly every one I read he said he wished I wrote him more but he didn’t blame me. I was in high school and he said I was probably more concerned with girls than an uncle in jail. It seriously broke my heart.
A few days later I had the idea to go through my uncle’s things and behold, every letter that my grandma wrote him was there. I never went through all his papers before then. I could go through and see their every conversation over that year and it really opened my eyes to how things really were back then. I didn’t go through all of it, not even half. I feel it was a private thing between mother and son.
Plus, I just don’t know if I could handle it. I have both their urns now, we cremated them, and I keep all the letters together with them. And in case anyone was wondering, my uncle never did go back to jail and he ended up raising two beautiful daughters and a son before he died.
I just wish they had more time with him.”
9. Her Own Words
“When my parents and little sister passed away in a plane crash, my cousin was in her room and happened to find her journal. There was an entry in it from when she was 14/15 that had an entry called ‘If I Died Tomorrow’ that was written to me, my dad and mom that basically said how she wanted us to be happy, celebrate her life, and to move forward.
I read it at their funeral and still fully believe that her words have kept me going a lot of times when I didn’t think I could.
I think it was what a lot of us needed to hear. She was wise beyond her years and I miss her and my parents dearly.”
10. Not Misplaced
“After my dad died, my mom found an envelope in his drawer with my name on it. It was a letter he wrote me when I was 3 months old (I was 21 when he died) and in the note there was a line that said ‘If you’re reading this, it means I’m no longer in your life,’ and also said that he hopes he can be a good dad, and he will always try to be there for me/help me with problems and hopes that we’ll be close, etc.
It kind of made me sad because I didn’t have the BEST relationship with him.
It wasn’t bad, but I was the kind of kid that would rather be left alone than spend time with my parents and stuff. He would on occasion ask if I wanted to watch a movie or play a game with him, and sometimes I would.
But for the most part, he let me just be by myself. And, up until I read that note I honestly thought he was like me and just preferred being alone, and didn’t mind that I didn’t spend a lot of time with him.
My mom and I also thought it was weird that we even found that note. My dad had a habit of misplacing stuff, and that note was written over 20 years ago and he managed not to lose that.”
11. A Very Hard Life
“My dad died in a car accident when I was 6. When he was alive, he wasn’t the kindest guy, he was very strict and pretty distant (a good dad in ways, just not very affectionate). After he died, my siblings who were in high school found out a bunch of stuff about him.
He was violated as a kid, and he told his dad, and his dad told him to suck it up and be a man about it.
Then my sister found medical records on our parent’s computer saying he’d attempted suicide a few times as an adult because he had severe depression, but he was so ashamed and couldn’t let us find out.
The man we thought was very rigid, ended up just being a guy who had a very hard life. I wish I had known him better.”
12. Super Secret
“Back when my mom died I went through what we kids lovingly called ‘Mom’s super secret blue box.’ It was this big blue satin box she kept in the bottom drawer of her dresser and we were absolutely forbidden to go looking in it.
I opened it to discover a pile of various papers and envelopes.
The papers were mostly random bits of things and more important documents like her birth certificate, baptismal cert, my dad’s baptism and confirmation certs, things like that. The real treasure trove was the envelopes.
The envelopes contained love letters between my mom and dad when my father was off on maneuvers when he was in the Army, and more importantly, letters sent from when my father was fighting during the Korean War.
I was hesitant to read them after I realized what they were but I went ahead anyway and discovered a whole other side to my parents.”
“When my great-grandfather went into the nursing home, the doctor said he could never go back home.
When he went into the hospital in the Summer of 1997, we thought he’d be able to come back home after going through physical therapy and being fitted for a prosthesis.
He had developed gangrene on his right lower leg, and it had to be amputated at mid-calf. When the doctor said he couldn’t go back, we put him in a personal care home.
We started cleaning while he was in the hospital.
We found out my great-granddad (and great-grandmother, but she’d been dead for 3 years) were expert hoarders. They’d held onto stuff since at least the 1930s, probably longer than that. Nearly 70 years of junk was in the old farmhouse and all of the outbuildings.
Four or five generations’ worth of stuff was found on that property.
Starting with the house, we found my great-great-grand dad’s journals in a closet. We found some of my great-grandmother’s clothes, shoes, accessories, and jewelry in the front bedroom and one of the rear bedrooms.
We found about 40 years’ worth of National Geographic magazines in the dining room. There were also three sets of china in the dining room. We found some books I had in one of the rear bedrooms. Also found some toys and other stuff that I’d left down there.
Whenever they’d buy me a toy or a book, my great-grandparents insisted I leave it with them, ‘so it will be here for you to play with/read the next time you come down to visit.’
That might have been a good idea in theory, but the truth of the matter is that by the time I went down again, I’d be too old for the toy/book, or I might have lost interest in said toy/book altogether.
In my great-grandparents’ minds, my parents (especially my dad, whom they hated) would get rid of anything they (great-grandparents) bought for me the second I brought it home. They came up with this idea when my great-grandmother once asked if I still had some particular toy or book I didn’t really like, and I said my dad donated it to Goodwill.
In one of the closets, we found a metal tin, like the kind you might put homemade cookies or candy in during Christmas, filled with pennies.
When my great-granddad and I would go to the local bank (very local; been run by the same family for generations), he’d give me a few pennies to buy some of the Ford chiclet gum out of the antique gumball machine.
We found coins all over the house.
Found a cardboard box lined with foil, filled with quarters. Found what my dad thought was a statue in the shape of a gorilla, but it turned out to be a coin bank, filled to the brim. I was given the job of sorting and rolling the coins (long before Coinstar was more widespread).
It came to a little over $450. My dad let me keep half.
In one of the outbuildings, a smokehouse, we found probably one of the greatest treasures ever. In several black garbage bags, we found some handmade quilts my great-great-grandmother had made.
I think we ended up with 30 quilts. We gave some to a couple of friends of my mom, but the rest we kept. I still have a couple I sometimes pull out every winter.
In what was the “biddy house” (where baby chicks were kept), I found tons of Chiffon Margarine (only brand they’d buy) bowls and stacks upon stacks of newspapers.
There was one stack of nothing but the comics sections from the 1950s. If they had been in better condition, they might have been worth something, especially the ad copies. There was one ad copy for Kool-Aid, with a contest to name the pitcher, the grand prize being a lifetime supply of Kool-Aid drink mix, and perhaps a new bicycle.
Another ad copy featured another powdered drink mix that added carbonation to your water, basically turning it into soda. The copy read, ‘It even tickles your nose!’
In a building that once housed a couple of goats, I found a bunch of stuff that belonged to my grandmother.
Found a little pack of crayons, some hand-puppets and other dolls, and a Kotex booklet dealing with a woman’s period.
My great-granddad had bought a double-wide trailer at one point for storing some of the stuff.
I remember finding some books I think my great-grandmother bought for me to teach me to read, and a few other things.
In another building, the freezer house, there were two chest freezers. My dad had already cleaned one of them out and left the other one for me.
I found food going all the way back to when Nixon or even Johnson was in office. It was like going through a time capsule, but you wouldn’t want to touch any of the things inside. I just threw them out into the surrounding yard to let whatever wild animals (we were way out in the country) have at it.
Once cleaned out and fixed up, we moved in for a short time before finally selling it for good after I went to college.”