The Tale Of The Tattered Portrait


It isn’t the portrait that is special. It is so typical of the modern American family. No, what made this family photo unique is when, how, and where the tattered portrait was found.

The two sisters met at their family home. The day prior, they had buried their father. Although elderly, they had not expected to lose him so shortly after losing their mother, who had passed just a couple of months earlier. Now, as they stood together in the entryway, their childhood abode now seemed more like a house than a home. It was empty, lifeless. The Grandfather clock sounded it’s chimes, echoing throughout the house that the time had expired on their parents life. Their father would no longer be winding up the old clock ever again.

As they looked about, all that remained were “things” that had been part of their parents lives. Now, as they surveyed with their eyes the ‘remains’ of what once was a home of love and life, they couldn’t help but feel the chill of coldness that now occupied the once warm walls. They looked sadly at each other and then parted to different parts of the house to dutifully collect together the personal lives of their parents. Not long after being there, the older sister yelled at her younger sister to come to their parents bedroom. As she entered the room she saw her sister sitting on the bed holding something in her hands. As she neared she could make out that it was her father’s wallet. As she looked at her sister and took a seat beside her on the bed, no words needed to be exchanged. There inside their father’s wallet, dutifully placed in a prominent spot were two worn and tattered photos. They were two little wallet sized family portraits. Both photos were circa the mid to late eighties. One each of the girls families at the time.

I sat across from my wife a few days later after returning home from her parents home. She related this story to me as we reminisced about her Dad and Mom. Then she got up and went out to our garage and retrieved that tattered photo out of the glove box of the car where she had placed it. As I looked at it and smiled at my once young family, my wives eyes got moist and she said, “He carried this photo with him for over thirty years!” She didn’t say anything else but she really didn’t need to. As she sat down next to me, I knew the thoughts that were going through her mind.

At his death, my father-in-law had left an important message behind in his wallet for his daughters. It goes without saying that no material possession left behind is of greater value than the message of love. And that message can be delivered in many ways. But for me and my wife, that tattered portrait has taken on a meaning that far exceeds any other earthly possession that her Dad could have left behind.

“What’s in your wallet?” asks a popular Credit Card company. My Father-In-Law’s daughters found out what was in their Dad’s wallet after he died. And the message of those tattered photos was worth far more than any inheritance anyone will ever receive in this life.

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