In the last few years, each time I've received a kind note, a thank-you card, a birthday card, I've thrown it into a large, cardboard, bootbox.
In the past, when I was in the thick of preschool paintings and children's certificates of achievement (which sometimes seemed like they received for just having a face) while cleaning closets or drawers, I had an impulse to toss the extra papers away--and I did. I've even been tempted to throw the whole box away at different white tornado moments.
But now I keep the box, because I have a different image that springs from the experiences of losing my own loved ones. Each Grandma had her own box of keepsakes and cards I read while sitting on the floor with family-- mostly cards from people I didn't know. It was a last testament of sorts, of a person's life, of the people who appreciated them, of their thoughtfulness and good deeds, perhaps savored by the living when one's worth needed measurement.
So I indulgently think of my own passing, and my daughters gathered on the floor, trying to sort out the stuff of a life. I don't expect them to keep the contents of the box, for life goes on and cannot be slowed by someone else's cardboard box. But I see them learning things about their mom they never knew. It will all come through the words of people they barely know, and some they know well.
My cousin found in the back of her mother's drawer a small purse with white gloves and a marriage certificate long forgotten and taboo in her new marriage. It was a tender moment as she shared in death a tenderness her mother never spoke of.