One thing to remember: Even the dead have their secrets. These Redditors unearthed the unimaginable while looking through their dead relatives’ belongings. From hidden letters to disturbing keepsakes, these discoveries range from heartbreaking to absolutely earth-shattering. But as touching as some of these stories are—some things are better left forgotten.
1. All Sorts Of Fun
After my grandfather’s funeral, the family went back to sort through his house where he had lived with his girlfriend who we called grandma. There was a safe that no one could open, so I was tasked with the joy of rifling through my grandpa’s disorganized desk. After what felt like hours, I found the slip of paper.
My uncle and I opened the safe and found a few manilla envelopes with important documents like birth certificates as well as a snub nose with two boxes of ammo. It was nothing that surprising until I looked down and saw two plastic bags tied together sitting at the bottom of the safe. My curiosity got the better of me.
I opened it. It was full of toys adults used for pleasure. I laughed so hard, showed my uncle and my brother, but kept it from my mom. I asked my grandma if there were any more pieces in the house. She said one was in my grandpa’s nightstand drawer. Not thinking, I looked inside and found another revolver and bullets.
Something in me said to do a more thorough search, so I rifled around a little longer in the drawer. Big mistake. I found a few more “bullets” if you catch my drift, just loose, hanging around the drawer as well as a packet of lube that looked like it was from the ‘70s. When I discovered the silver vibrators, I yelped.
Right after, I jumped up and ran like a moron to the bathroom and washed my hands for five minutes straight. I should not have touched those. Every time I think of him, I think of that and laugh.
2. Room To Rummage
Two years after my mother passed, my father sold their house. My wife and sister cleared out the house, my brother-in-law got the garage and workshop, and I took on the yard. I thought I could get it done quickly and go on to help the others. Nope. Mom had been using the yard as her own little landfill for two decades.
I found more than thirty metal poles hidden in the woodpile. Between that, the rolls of chicken wire, the bed frame, and the section of guttering she had dragged home, there was almost a whole ton of metal. There were paint tins, a cast-iron kitchen set, an assorted cutlery set, most of a bike…It took us four weekends.
3. Rough Split
I sorted through my friend’s belongings before his family arrived and removed what they didn’t need to see. I found a box filled with personal journals, newspaper clippings, receipts, and other documents that showed just how off the skids he was after his divorce. I was aware that his wife had run off with another man.
And I knew he went through some months of anger, depression, and drinking. I did not know he wanted to hurt her or that he had hired a detective agency to track her down across the country, travel there, contact her employer and others to attempt to destroy her professional reputation, and other vindictive shenanigans.
4. Once Upon A Time
When my grandma went into a nursing home, I helped my dad clean out her house. She had a lot, so we found some neat stuff. Tucked away at the bottom of a drawer was a fancy little box, much nicer than most things she owned. There were a few things in it including a folded newspaper clipping of a woman and a little boy.
They looked just like her and my dad. My grandma had a bit of a mysterious past, so we assumed they were probably some sort of relatives and moved on. A couple of years later when she passed, and we finally found out more about her family. The picture was of her mother, my great-grandmother, and my grandma’s first son.
It turns out that she had a husband and two little boys when she was young who she left and never spoke of again. The only trace of them we found in all of her things was that one little picture.
5. A Mixed Bag
My mom was the youngest of four girls. Her third eldest sister was in a fatal car accident when she was eighteen and my mom was seven. My grandfather, a strict and overprotective father, got up in the middle of the night and realized she wasn’t home. He had gone out and found her in the ditch a mile down the dirt road.
It was a tragedy that quietly affected him for the rest of his life. I was close to my grandpa and spent a lot of time with him. He lived a very fulfilling life. He was born on a dirt floor and worked his way into an independently wealthy life. He was a strict man with strong religious beliefs and always very generous.
He especially loved children and was known for having a pocketful of candy to hand out during church. He was very positive and joyful, but he was also very melancholic about people’s final days. He read the obituaries daily commenting on the people he had known from town. Then he lost my grandma, his bride of 56 years.
Less than a year later, two of his siblings passed within a month of each other, which left my grandpa and his youngest sister the last of eleven siblings. Within a year of that, he lost his dog who he’d had for over ten years. Grandpa never talked about depression and still found joy in his church and his grandchild.
But he occasionally made comments like, “I know my time will come when it is supposed to, but I’d be okay if I don’t make it to my next birthday.” He passed very unexpectedly in his sleep about two years after Grandma. My mom was their caretaker so had a hard time being in his bedroom, so I helped prior to his funeral.
We found a small tin box on top of his headboard. The box was stuffed full of newspaper clippings almost too full to close. Inside were the newspaper clippings from the obituaries of childhood acquaintances, his siblings, and my grandma. It seemed it was a collection of life events from the people who he’d cared about.
There was a picture of my newborn, several obituaries, the invitation to my wedding, a newspaper clipping that covered when my grandfather had run into my uncle’s church to warn everybody when a fire had started, the announcement of my cousin’s wedding, the obituary of the boss who’d given him his first job, and so on.
The box was stuffed with over 30 years’ worth of memories in the form of small photos and newspaper announcements. At the very bottom of the stack, we found something so harrowing—it’s unforgettable. We found the clipping that began this whole collection: My aunt’s obituary, and her high school science fair ribbon. As we put everything back, it just painted a depressing picture.
After the loss of my aunt, life kept on. For several years, grandpa’s box was full of happy mementos of the important events like graduations, weddings, grandchildren, but those happy moments were slowly replaced by the obituaries of former colleagues and acquaintances, to childhood friends, and eventually more family.
Even the moments that brought him joy in life were surrounded by the grief of loss in the end. I think it had just brought some clarity on his state of mind throughout his life. One of the most remembered quirks that my grandfather had was always telling us how much he loved us. It showed his deep appreciation of life.
6. Liquid Assets
My friend is an only child, so when her mom passed, I thought I could help out clearing her mom’s place. Her mom hoarded a lot and was in her 80s, so it was a lot. My friend wasn’t in the room when I found something pretty nasty: A 40-year-old jar full of spermicide in some old trunk. I knew how old it was because she was divorced in her 40s.
My friend told me that her mother never got over the failed marriage. Plus, there was no need for birth control by that age. I didn’t get it at all but quickly tossed the glass container in the garbage bag before my friend came back. I never told her about it or that it had separated into layers.
7. Papa Don’t Preach
We were going through my grandfather’s things after he passed and found letters between him and my nan from when they were young. Nan was only 14 when she got pregnant, and my grandpa was 16. She was sent away somewhere to have the baby while her family kept insisting that they put the baby, my father, up for adoption.
In the letters, my grandparents talked about how much they loved each other and how they were fighting to keep the baby. Grandpa was working extra hours to save money and then spending his free time building furniture for their future home. He wrote about how the boys at work made fun of him for being under my Nan’s thumb.
But he wrote that he didn’t care what they said because of how much he loved her and their unborn baby. These letters really helped my dad feel like he was wanted. While he was growing up, he felt like he had ruined their lives.
8. Secret Baby
I do estate sales for a living and have found plenty of weird things. But the one that sticks out in my mind the most is when we found a fetus in a jar. It was hidden in the back of a bathroom cabinet. I assume it was from a miscarriage. The couple was in their late 80s. There was no telling how long it had been there.
9. Throw Me A Bone
When my grandma passed, I helped my mom clean up before her brother could get over to do his part. My grandma had been widowed for about 10 years at that point, lived in a senior apartment complex, and was pushing 90 but still very full of life, so it wouldn’t surprise me if she’d had a few trysts with other residents.
I was cleaning out her drawers and came across some leather bondage stuff. Like, some serious stuff that I don’t even know what it was for but could assume what its purpose may have been. I hesitated on pulling more out of the drawer because it was personal, plus I didn’t really need the mental image of my grandma’s kinks.
My mom saw me pause and looked at what I was holding, which was a harness-type thing, and asked what it was. I told her I wasn’t sure, and my mom assumed it was a strange dog walking harness to help the elderly have more control. To this day I don’t know if my mom knew what it was, I’m too scared to rehash that memory.
But she and I both definitely knew that my grandma hated dogs.
10. Same Feelings
My grandmother had divorced my mom’s dad back in the ‘70s. While Grandpa had a live-in girlfriend, Grandma never dated. I’m not sure if she ever tried to, or if she just didn’t want to date again. After losing her, Mom and I prepared with her siblings the house, furniture, and other items to be sold for an estate sale.
I was browsing on Grandma’s computer, and a banner ad showed up for a dating site. It wasn’t any regular site; it was a lesbian dating site. Banner ads only come up based on search history. I occasionally think of it these days, especially as I am a woman married to another woman. How would Grandma have taken the news?
11. Bits Of Everything
My grandfather passed from simple old age. It was sad to watch because the man was smart and still all there. My aunt who had lived with him took a month out of the country to be out of the house that her father had lived in since he was 30 and where she took care of him when his body started giving up a few years ago.
When she came back, she invited the family over to help her clean out his room and the other belongings he had around the house. The room held many strange things. My grandfather was born during the Depression and raised on the idea to never trust the bank with the majority of your money. We found almost $53K in bills.
They ranged from the early ‘60s to about the mid-’90s. They weren’t big bills either; there must have been at least $20k in $1s and $5s. This was in addition to investments, property, and what he had in his bank account. My aunt gave me his 1937 Buffalo Nickel because she knew I collected coins and thought I’d like it.
In pristine condition, the nickel is now worth close to $5K. There also was lots of junk. My grandfather had kept every single card that he got for birthdays and holidays since 1983. He was also an artist and had many little drawings and sketches he’d done over his life; one of which won a contest to be a brand’s logo.
We also found a lot of random stuff like sealed records from off bands from all different decades. There were probably 30-40 hand-sketched women on pretty much everything from napkins to paper to canvas. One cool thing that we’d found was that he had a lot of finely hand-crafted pipes, some of which he had made himself.
12. Life Enhancement
We were about to finally sell my grandmother’s house after nine years since her passing, she received a letter from the company that insured her breasts implants. It said that her warranty was set to expire that year. It’s crazy that the sweet old lady who baked pies was actually rocking a silicone rack the whole time.
13. Shred Of The Past
My great-grandfather never talked about his experiences when he fought in the trenches. One item we had on our glass-top coffee table was a German dog tag. No one in our family knew the origin. We don’t know how my great-grandfather acquired it. Once I grew up, I majored in history and really enjoyed archival research.
So, I decided to research the tag and hope to reunite it with his family or a relative of some sort. After my research, we learned that it was a German soldier who had not only survived despite taking a hit but also being as POW all while under 20. I have personal information as to who his parents were but none on him.
14. Bye Bye Birdie
My family decided to move to Chicago, so my grandparents could live with us. But it was 2008, and our house wasn’t selling. My mom and I moved anyway and rented an apartment while my dad worked at his job in NY and stayed in our house. He’d visit for a week out of the month. He passed unexpectedly after about 6 months.
Without his income and the house not selling, we decided to move back. I was back first, so I was the first person to go to the house since my dad was last there. The weirdest thing was that there was literally nothing in the fridge except an unopened bag of birdseed. I have no memories of either parent feeding birds.
I also don’t know why a man who was supposed to be living there and didn’t know his life was going to end, did not have any food in the fridge. I assume he must have been staying at a hotel or something, but he was very fiscally responsible, and we didn’t have any spare money at the time.
15. Saw You Coming
I have a really unique name. Like I’ve never in my life heard of someone else with my name. My mother-in-law was very into spiritual mediums and psychic readings. After she was gone, we were going through her things and found a bunch of journals where she had kept notes about her various readings and other experiences.
On the very first page of one, she had written, “your guardian angel’s name is [my name].” The weirdest part is that she never told me even though I had been with her son for 15 years.
16. Got To Go
My grandma was a known hoarder, and the first two months after she had passed, we had to clean out dozens of sets of fine china, a pie holder with a recipe for Armadillo pie printed on it, a plate with all of the presidents’ faces on it up to Nixon, a boxy suitcase with creepy porcelain dolls, and hundreds of pictures.
We found kitchen appliances too from the 50s and electrical tools that no longer work. We were barely able to clean the bathroom and the kitchen in a week. It was hard to see how sick she was from a unique point of view and throwing away things that were really valuable to her, but it was something that had to be done.
17. Dumping Daddy
We had to go through my mom’s things years after she was gone. My dad was crazy and wouldn’t let us sort through anything after she’d passed. Four years later, he told us he was getting married the next day and then dumped all of her personal items on the table. Anything left by morning was going straight to the trash.
There were heirlooms from her parents and grandparents, her engagement ring, old letters. Everything. Going through it, I found letters from my dad to my brother telling him that he needed to ask Jesus for forgiveness for making my dad angry enough to hurt him. There were letters for my mom apologizing to my father.
She apologized for being sick and saying something “mean” to him explaining that it could be god testing her. Just two hours changed my view of my father forever and not for the better. It broke my heart to think of my mom being sick with cancer and thinking she deserved punishment for asking my dad to be at home more.
18. If Walls Could Talk
My grandfather wasn’t really in our lives. He mistreated my grandmother while they were married. After they divorced, he moved across the country and became a truck driver. Growing up, my mom never saw him except for one time. He was sober, and they didn’t bond much because she admitted his dry humor made it difficult.
But when my sister and I were born, she made an effort to send him pictures and Christmas cards. Over the years, he never reached out, so we just assumed he didn’t care for us. It didn’t matter; we were closer to his brother. So, when he passed, my mom went to help his brother sort through his things. It blew her mind.
Every single wall was covered in our baby photos and cards that we’d sent him throughout the years along with others from my aunts and uncles. It broke her heart because she thought for her entire life that he hated his past or just disliked us. She realized that he probably didn’t know exactly how to interact with us.
19. Remembering What’s Important
This happened to one of my best friends. Her father hadn’t really been around since she was a kid because he deeply struggled with addiction, but she never expressed any hate or anger towards him. After her father overdosed, my friend was offered an opportunity to go to his house to look through some of his belongings.
She found a pile of journals; I’m talking years and years and years’ worth of writing inside them, and almost every entry mentioned something about her. Despite all these years of silence, there wasn’t a single day that he wasn’t thinking about her.
20. Just Call Me Daddy
I helped an ex clean out her stepdad’s house in the early 1990s after he suddenly passed. This was the man she had considered her father. He and her mom married when she was very young and she never knew her bio dad. He’d been the most amazing husband and father. He never treated her differently than her half-siblings.
He doted on her mother only to lose her five years before he passed. We went to his house to go sort his things out. My ex and I were in his hobby room that was full of radios, small electric motors, model trains, and other stuff like that. Then her younger sister came running down the stairs with something to tell us.
She had been in the guest room and found a box of naughty toys, light bondage gear, leather straps, along with a photo album from the 70s and 80s. The album had pictures of him and her mother at swinger parties and of people who she knew as aunts and uncles partially clothed with white powder in lines in front of them.
Most of the photos corresponded with her and her siblings’ birthdays. That was a pretty fun day.
21. Supervisory Officer
When my dad passed peacefully but unexpectedly, we were in his apartment the next day just closing things down and waiting for the landlord to ask when we could move his things out. I was looking for some documents in his closet when I bumped his bathrobe and heard this crinkling noise. So, I reached inside the pocket.
And then I pulled out this huge bag of weed. This really wasn’t a big surprise to me. But it’s notable because standing next to me was an officer who was there to ask some questions to file a report. This was almost 20 years ago and way before even medical marijuana was acceptable. I just stood there and stared at him.
I sheepishly said, “uh…this is not mine. I assume that’s obvious.” To his credit, he said, “if you put it back until I leave, I didn’t see a thing. You guys are dealing with way too much already.” I don’t remember his name, but that cop will always have my respect. And that’s how I “inherited” about 2 ounces of weed.
22. It’s All In Your Head
My oldest uncle was depressed, paranoid, and mentally ill. After he took his life, my mom went to clear his house where she found multiple dictionaries in different languages. He worked as a park guardian in Paris so he learned many languages to help tourists. He even had a complete collection of all Alexandre Dumas books.
He may have been terribly alone all his life, which drove him to madness. But from what we found, I’d like to think that he also traveled all around the world, and in time, in his mind.
My uncle had all his VHS tapes with my dad when he moved away. My mom was tired of storing them for him, so she put them in a garage sale. None of them were marked with anything except for numbers. My uncle was kind of weird in a creepy way–never married, no kids, never dated, basically a loner and just, well, weird. Well, my mom sold them to older ladies at the church.
Mind you, this was a strict Baptist church where she was a Sunday School teacher. These ladies were excited to see what was on them. My mom warned them, “now those are my brother-in-law’s tapes, so I don’t know what’s on them.” Later, my brother came home from work. He found out what she’d done and asked if she had really sold my uncle’s tapes.
Mom told him she did. My brother freaked out and told her that the tapes were of some serious adult, non-Baptist church-friendly content. We still laugh about it until this day.
24. One For The Gallery
My great-grandma was an artist; we have beautiful paintings by her and a few other pieces of her artwork. She also liked drawing with pastels. I decided to get a pastel framed for my dad as a Christmas present. Its frame had broken and the picture had become exposed. So, her signature had gotten smeared in the process.
Well, when the person helping me got the picture out of the frame, we gained back a lot of the picture. It completely transformed the artwork. We also found out the smeared signature wasn’t the original. The frame had been built around the picture and ended up covering the original signature! My dad was really excited.
It was the coolest thing to discover, and I’ll never forget the look on my dad’s face seeing her signature.
25. Treat Yourself
My grandfather had major heart problems most of his life. He had to take nitro regularly, and his case was even discussed in a medical journal. The doctors told him that he should completely quit drinking but a “nip” here and there would not hurt him. After he passed, we were helping with renovating the spare bathroom. That’s when we found something strange.
We discovered a hole underneath the bathroom vanity. In the hole was a wooden cylinder with a lid that my grandfather had made. There was a bottle inside, and written on the inside of the lid was the reminder that my grandfather wrote, “remember, just a nip unless it’s a hard day, then take 2.” Grandma had no idea about it.
26. Fresh Eyes
After our family friend’s patriarch passed, the family was left to shut down his automation business. My dad had worked for him for decades, so I was familiar with the business. I was assigned the owner’s desk. Everything in sight was either shredded or thrown away. As I went through his things, I slowed my pace a bit.
Some things stood out more than others. Thankfully, I managed to find an important notepad that looked empty. But when I randomly flipped through it quickly, I found writing in it. These notes ended up being the passwords to huge business accounts that his widow needed. She was so thankful that I found these passwords.
Chances were anyone else would have just thrown these papers into the shredder. I also found cheques for thousands of dollars that everyone had assumed he already deposited. I’m still proud of finding these things. I’m glad I was responsible for clearing his desk when no one else could bring themselves to clear it out.
27. Menagerie Of Memories
At my step-grandma’s house, everything was kept–bags, papers, books, clothes, 1960s tinned meat, kettles, etc. The number of animals that she had was insane. I mean she had 6 dogs, 20 odd cats, 3 tropical fish tanks, 2 axolotls, and a whole room full of birds. But sorting out the “special” cabinet gave me the creeps.
It was full of all these little china glass animals she collected, old teddy bears, the usual creepy stuff. She’d also kept her previous dogs’ puppy teeth, collars, and nail clippings. I wasn’t impressed when I found them. My step-dad just said, “oh, those are mum’s favorite dog’s teeth,” like it was completely normal.
28. My Favorite Thing
I lost my father when I was about to turn 12 years old from a brain tumor and cancer in his bone marrow. After he had the surgery for the tumor, he had no hair, and he had this massive stitching on his temple in the shape of a horseshoe. I was fine with it until he showed me that it sank in when you pressed down on it.
That was when I became a little bit uncomfortable because I thought it hurt him even though it was numb and he was perfectly fine. I thought he was just pushing on his brain and hurting himself, and I was 9 then and couldn’t see it any other way. The next time I saw him a week later, he asked me if I was scared of him.
I swallowed my slight discomfort with it, crawled on the bed with him, hugged his head, and responded, “nope! You’re my Daddy, and it’s unconditional! You’re stuck with me forever!” I didn’t realize how much of an impact that had made on him because four years later, I found a printed-out packet titled “Backup Speech.”
Apparently, if I had told him that I was afraid of him, he had a 6-page speech about the importance of love and how not to judge someone’s looks. To be honest, the only reason I was uncomfortable with it was because I used to watch my older brother play video games that left me with nightmare fuel from the ages of 4-10.
He even kept almost all of my terrible 6-year-old drawings in his work desk. He was a wielder, and once told me his work buddies saw the drawings and proceeded to become overgrown teddy-bears looking at them. They were these big, bulky men with wielding masks, going, “aww,” at a bunch of stick figures with no clothing.
The other things in his desk drawer were his wedding ring, his journal with all of the reasons he loved me and my brother, a picture of him from high school, and every single photo that he’d ever taken of me and him together. I was always my dad’s favorite. My brother stopped visiting him when he heard he had cancer.
Only the neighbors and I ever visited him after that. My brother knew our father liked me more and kept me in his will while he got nothing. He only liked me more because I didn’t leech off of his gaming console, which he only had to relieve his stress, and actually spent quality time with him doing things and bonding.
29. Way With Words
My family and I moved into a new house when I was 12. An older woman who passed from cancer a few months before had owned the house, and her adult sons had come in and thought they’d taken everything of hers. But they gave us one of their phone numbers just in case we later came across anything important they’d missed.
My brother’s bedroom had this beautiful built-in desk, and I was helping him put some books in the drawers. There were some empty file folders in the back of one, so I pulled them out, and surprisingly in some of those folders, I found paper. They were all poems. I think I counted 40 poems, all written on a typewriter.
I brought them to my mom who called the son to ask if he wanted them. His mother had been a writer, and she’d previously written a book of children’s poetry. She had mentioned that she wanted to write a book of more personal adult poetry, but then she got too sick to do it. So, the poems we found had been for the book.
We gave the poems to the sons who ended up publishing what they had, and my name was included in the “thank you” section for finding the poems.
30. Timely Union
My sisters and I were quite surprised when we were going through my mother’s things after she passed. My mother had been married before my dad and had two children with him. She ended up losing her first husband and met my dad. We found an old wallet with an obituary for her first husband listed with his wife and kids.
Except it was dated five years after my parents said they had been married. There was no way she was divorced as a strict Catholic, but that still wouldn’t explain why she was listed as his wife. It stayed a mystery for another decade before losing my dad. Our brother refused to tell us, respecting our parents’ wishes.
We found their wedding certificate and my mom and dad were married about five years after they told us they had. It was a secret they kept from us for over 40 years.
31. Just An Example
My sister was going through our late grandmother’s purse and came across a birth announcement for a little girl we’d never heard of. The parents were listed as my aunt and uncle. She thought she’d uncovered some deep family secret about an infant who had passed, but then we actually did the math, and it was impossible.
The child could not have existed at all because the listed birth date was just a few weeks off from my aunt’s son. The pregnancies couldn’t have had possibly both happened. So, we asked my mom about it. She told us that it was just a birth announcement prototype that my aunt had printed up while she was still pregnant.
They filled in the birth date as the due date, signed it with their names, and randomized the not-yet-known information such as the baby’s gender, name, and weight. So, the little girl in the birth announcement never even existed, yet my eccentric grandmother carried the card around with her anyway for whatever reason.
32. Recorded History
My father passed after being extremely ill. He had a rough life since the government had liquidated the business he treasured and his friends took his money. His family was especially rude to him, taking his car money and trying to separate our family. For a month, he was abroad for treatment, and I was using his laptop. I found a word document that stood out to me.
When I clicked on it, I was surprised to find the story of how he met my mother, but it was addressed to my children. I was about 15 at this time and didn’t have any. Reading on, there were documents proving everything that happened and all the wrong people had done to him. I never told anyone about it since I was too young and didn’t want them to be upset.
Soon after he passed, my mother found it. We intend to finish the word document and go after the people who wronged him in his life. May he rest in peace.
33. Too Late Now
My father went to university later in life, graduating in his late 40s. Dad was brilliant, talented, but prone to avoidant behavior. He complained about finding work after graduation and blamed it on age discrimination. Sorting through his stuff after he passed, we found a job application for a substitute teaching gig.
Stapled to it was a cheque for $50 from his brother dated several years before. That puzzled us, so we called my uncle. Someone told my dad about the job, and he kept pushing off applying with one excuse after another. Finally, he claimed that he couldn’t afford the background check. So, his brother wrote him a cheque.
We were looking at the still-unsubmitted application complete with the uncashed cheque.
34. After The Beep
The previous owner of the house I bought had passed without an heir. He’d been in a relationship with someone who took a few things before the bank foreclosed on it. The electricity and phone line had still been active, and there was an answering machine with a bunch of messages–mostly bill collectors and junk calls.
But then there were calls from people who had been concerned about his whereabouts. The weirdest thing was probably the audio cassette that had the same house’s address for both sender and receiver; it was some kind of self-help tape. There were all kinds of things that were messed up, and I’m convinced it was haunted.
35. Going Through A Lot
A few years after my father-in-law passed, my husband, his younger sister, and I had to move my mother-in-law and my husband’s disabled sister to a care home and clean out their hoarded house. So much was just accumulated trash. We found all kinds of stuff and some actual nice things that had rarely or never been used.
The biggest unpleasant surprise was finding family heirlooms that had been ruined by neglect, like the framed photos of my husband’s father’s family that were taken some time at the end of the 1800s. They had been mounted on wood that had rotted and been stored in their attic where mildew and animals had destroyed them.
We also found other, luckily preserved, photos of my husband’s grandmother as a young woman that he had never seen before. We brought a lot of the stuff to Goodwill, left a ton on the curb for bulky trash that other people took first, and ultimately salvaged only a new refrigerator and one plastic tub of smaller items.
36. I’m Having My Baby
There had been a family rumor that my grandmother’s younger sister, my great-aunt, had actually been her half-sister. We found my grandmother’s mother’s obituary who was young when she got cancer. In it, her children were mentioned as those who had been left behind, but my great aunt had not been included in that list. That pretty much verified the rumor.
The story is that my great-grandmother had an affair with a foreigner, which would have brought great shame to the family. So, my great-grandmother gave birth and raised the child as if she were her own without telling anyone about it.
37. Act Casual
When my grandmother was 5, she fled from Germany to Canada with her mom and brother when it was no longer safe. Grandpa had passed a few years before my grandmother, and we went to go through their things. Well, we found an old box that was full of paperwork from Germany like official travel documents and other papers.
After a moment of panic, we realized that was just how it was then. My great-grandfather had joined the resistance in Germany, which put him and his family in great danger. He sent them a letter that said they were being watched and needed to leave inconspicuously; he told them to act like they were going to the store.
He had set up an escape plan that brought them to the European coast where they got on a ship to Canada. They left without any of their things and without knowing if my great-grandfather was okay. They didn’t hear from him for over a year. Later, he sent a letter saying he was doing okay and he was coming to join them.
38. Quarter Centuries
When my grandma passed, we were working on cleaning out her house and found a large glass jar full of quarters. Each coin had a label on it with her handwriting. One of the coins was a 1972 quarter labeled “Aug. 5, 1972 – arrived in the US.” She’d saved a quarter with the year of every milestone since coming to the US.
She had a quarter for the date they bought their home, when they bought their first car, when she got her first dog, and many other major life events. My aunt has the collection now.
39. Hats Off
I was cleaning out my grandmother’s house to get it ready to be sold. In the basement, I found a footlocker in the corner and opened it. There was a blanket on top, a few bibles under that, and then another blanket. When I lifted the blanket, I found two dark, semi-shiny triangular shapes about 9″ by 4″ at the widest. I picked one up, and it was much lighter than I thought it would be.
For a second, I thought I was holding a crow. I took the “crow” over to the light and found that it was a folded cloth with a shiny black wooden lattice woven into it. As I started unfolding it, I realized it was a bonnet that women in the 1800s wore. The weird thing was that wrapped up in the bonnet were six or seven old photographs printed on tin of individual men and women dressed very well and posing for photographs.
I checked the other bonnet, and it held several more pictures. Then I showed them to my mother and my aunt, and they had no idea who they could be. We’ve since shown them to various family members, some of whom grew up with my grandmother, and no one has any idea who is in the photographs or why grandma would have them tucked away in bonnets in the basement.
40. Got Jokes
My grandma couldn’t face sorting through my grandfather’s belongings so decided to sort through the cupboards in the kitchen, organizing items like tinned food and baking ingredients just to make it feel like she was doing something productive. I decided to help her, and we ended up having a really good laugh doing it.
We had found some dried yeast packets with an expiration date of 1981, and taped to them was a note from my grandad that said, “I knew you hadn’t cleaned back here – 1998.” It was just typical of him to still make us laugh from beyond the grave.
41. Really Paints A Picture
Last year, we lost my aunt unexpectedly, and I helped clean out her house to get it ready to sell. She’d lost her long-time boyfriend a year earlier. They were both about 40 when they passed. The biggest unexpected find was her stairwell covered in their paintings. I don’t think anyone knew that they’d painted so much.
I even found a picture of her at a painting competition with one of the pieces. Most of the paintings were Halloween-themed, but there were also some fantasy stuff and landscapes pieces. Everyone ended up taking them, and many were given to other relatives. When moving some basement furniture, we found a brown envelope.
It’d been taped behind a shelf. Inside was the paperwork for my uncle’s arm-wrestling league. At some point, my dad was trying to use her printer, but it came up with an error. So, he opened it and found a tablet sitting in the paper tray. It was the 3rd one we found with nothing on it. Her house was also in disrepair.
We did not expect that because she’d always taken pride in it. It wasn’t very clean with a lot of junk everywhere. The carpet had big holes, likely from the dog that she’d given away. We think she was depressed after losing my uncle and just stopped caring because we knew she could have afforded the upkeep of her home.
42. Fishing For Gold
My grandmother had a lot of costume jewelry that my aunt wanted my sister and me to go through to choose what we wanted and toss the rest. It was in a fishing tackle box that I found her 100% not-costume-jewelry gold chain anklet. My aunt didn’t realize it had made its way there because my grandmother wore it every day.
She surely would have worn it until her last day, and we suspect one of the hospice workers removed it after she passed and stored it where they knew her other jewelry was. I have worn it every day since then, and it’s a really great memory of her. I now have a few of her handmade wicker baskets and her quilts as well.
43. No Keepsakes
My mom is a little crazy and lives in her childhood home where her mother lived until the end of her life. Grandmother was a spendthrift, and my mother is a packrat. I spent a month clearing out and refurbishing the house while she was away. I threw away a lot of junk of my grandmother’s who had been gone for 20 years.
Most shocking was the closets full of department store bags and boxes that were all empty. Something else I found was a treasure box of heirlooms from my great uncle that I smuggled to my uncle who was close to him. He had been looking for it for years, and my mom never let him look for it. She thinks she still has it!
But the strangest and most memorable thing was a locked wooden chest that had been in my bedroom for years and later my brother’s bedroom. Always heavy and useless and locked. Well, I went through the whole house and found every single key in that place. No key to the locked chest. So, I resorted to just sawing it off.
All I found was a little girl’s dress, which was probably my aunt’s first communion dress and my grandfather’s old paperwork.
44. What’s In The Bag
We didn’t know what made my 25-year-old brother lose his life, but we knew how his body was found. We’re flipping through his clothes, his jars of protein powder that smelled like vomit, and his song lyrics along with bills to various clothing places. Well, my older sister opened up his wallet and found a small baggie.
It honestly looked like some flour had been in there. And we were doing this at 2 AM with the funeral service happening in the next few hours. So, my mom was panicking, my older sisters were on and off crying, and my younger sister just sat by herself with her headphones blasting. I sitting there watching dazed and sad.
Then I told them what I thought it looked like, but my mom disagreed. We then got into a brief argument over what to do with the baggie – whether we should turn it over or throw it away. We eventually decided to give it to my brother’s rehab director who tested it. It came back inconclusive.
45. Our Place
I went through my grandfather’s photos when he passed and saved anything that I found interesting or personally memorable. My favorite find was the pictures of the time he tried male modeling in the ‘80s. He looked sharp! He also had a lot of great vacation photos from the 70s of him riding his bike around the country.
I also found an album from Gatlinburg, TN. It meant a lot to me because I got married in Gatlinburg and go back to visit once in a while. I’d just gone there for my anniversary before my grandpa passed, so seeing him at the same landmarks as a younger man and comparing them to my recent memories brought him back a bit.
46. Setting Sights
I was helping my father go through some things in what we both knew was possibly his last few weeks or days. He had some pictures of my mother who’d passed a few years earlier, which wasn’t surprising, but it was one of a strange oriental building. He asked me to bring it over and then told me why he kept that picture.
It was what he could see while he was losing his virginity…to my mother, thankfully. But still, it’s an odd thing to tell your son before you’re gone.
47. From A Different Point Of View
Both my father and I were born when our mothers were well on in life and considered too old to successfully bear more children. So, there was a considerable age gap between my grandmother and myself; we were born 102 years apart. The family knew that grandma had long had a fascination with the First Duke of Wellington.
It was mainly because one cousin had married into a minor branch of the Wellesley family. We knew also that when Nan was younger, she’d been unusually well educated, and because of her remote family connections, had once wanted to become a historian. But she was discouraged by her parents from such a “mannish” pursuit.
And then she married my country-gentleman grandfather. And for two decades, she was responsible for keeping a house full of children, hunting dogs, and fishing rods organized. We knew that she had never managed to get her work published. There was not even an article in any of the many periodicals of the Edwardian era.
After passing in 1960, we found a collection of short manuscripts written in her distinctively spidery, Spencerian hand that was in a box under her bed and under a stack of magazines. Some were in German and French, both of which she was fully fluent. A few in Spanish were all dated in the late 1870s and the early 80s.
Once we puzzled through the English ones, we slowly realized Nan’s scribblings were actually the first-hand accounts of old veterans who had fought for Napoleon! When we had some volunteer language students from the local university translate a couple of the French and German essays, we found they had the same content.
She had mentions of specific units, senior officers, and battles. A few of which we were able to align with information from Encyclopedia Brittanica and books about the conflict, so her papers appeared to be quite authentic. None of the veterans’ transcripts dealt with grand designs, patriotic thoughts about the fight.
They were deeply personal and touching stories about being conscripted; holding comrades as they breathed their last breath, seeing their units obliterated by cannon fire, having their ships sunk from under them, going on forced marches, being starved and exhausted, and escaping through the occasional cache of spirits.
There were also thanks to God for keeping them safe, and some were full of despair after making their way back only to learn that their family and property had vanished or that their home village was now under the nation they had just ceased to fight. It seems that she had been a precocious young woman in her twenties.
She had done a couple of tours of some old soldier’s homes and hospitals on the continent interviewing old veterans and gathering from all sides of the conflict. Perhaps she was hoping to put them together and have it published. But it seems that she never got beyond her early research because too much time had passed.
Because by the time she could, she had finished being a wife and a mother, and there were no more sources. After much consideration, a few of us kept a few of our favorites as memorials to our remarkable grandmother, and the bulk of her papers were donated to one of the UK’s national museums, which they gratefully accepted.
48. Soft Stuff
When we moved my grandmother into assisted living, we found that her closets were stuffed full with sets of decorative pillows – the kind in pairs for couches. She just had garbage bag after garbage bag for no explicable reason. She only had one sofa with one set of pillows, so it wasn’t like she was using any of them.
49. To The Bitter End
My parents had a very difficult marriage. They married in the 50s, and my mom was mostly Catholic so divorce, while often discussed, was never actually accomplished. They fought, sometimes physically, and he was often and very publicly unfaithful to her. After they both passed, I was sorting through some of her things.
I found this fancy Mother’s Day card, which my father had given her. He even wrote a short affectionate message, which was very unlike him. It was dated when I, their only child, was two. My father had actually worked for a greeting card company, so it was elaborate with its own little box. Then I looked underneath it, and my heart broke for my mother.
There was a letter dated around the same time. It had been read and reread so many times, folded and refolded so many times, that it was literally falling apart, and I almost couldn’t decipher it. It was from a would-be lover of my mother’s deep in discussions of how she could leave my father just begging her to do it.
I put it back where my mother hid it. I had a lot of thoughts about it, but I knew it was probably a rewarding jolt that my mother got from hiding a love letter behind one of my father’s bombastic and totally foolish attempts to hide what a jerk he was.
50. Grandma’s House
Since I was very young, my father lived halfway across the world, and my mother didn’t let him see me. She also got together with a psychopath who loathed me. My childhood was truly terrible to the extent that my intrusive thoughts began before my age was in the double digits. My two grandmothers were a total lifeline.
And without them, I really don’t think I’d be alive. I ended up in a children’s home when I was 14. When my maternal grandmother passed, my uncle found a folder with my name on it. Inside were letters between her and my other grandmother. They were conspiring to make sure that I had at least some positivity in my life.
They had been arranging with each other who would invite me to stay with them next. Those letters were truly beautiful.
51. The Unspeakable
I found my grandmother’s diary from when she was a teenager. It outlined her leaving school and having a relationship with her married boss, my grandfather, while his wife was in a hospital in her last days. It shattered the pedestal the family put him on. We found it, and then it disappeared. No one spoke of it again.
52. Hide And Seek
My dad and his cousin cleaned out the house that belonged to their aunt and uncle. They never had children of their own but loved all of their nieces and nephews and their kids. They were the sweetest people who lived full lives. My dad found a cardboard box hidden in the rafters above the garage while he was cleaning. What he found in there shocked him to his core.
Apparently, my great uncle had a second family with two sons that nobody ever knew about. We read the letters from his other woman begging him to leave my great aunt, lots of school pictures, and some other tokens. We don’t know if my great aunt ever knew about it or not. My great uncle was always a little flirtatious with women, but nobody ever expected this.
He flirted the most with his wife and loved her more than anything. I thought stuff like this only happened in the movies!