Nancy Moser

Nancy Moser is the award-winning author of over twenty inspirational novels. Her genres include contemporary stories including John 3:16 and Time Lottery, and historical novels of real women-of-history including Just Jane (Jane Austen) and Washington's Lady (Martha Washington). Her newest historical novels are Masquerade and An Unlikely Suitor. Nancy and her husband Mark live in the Midwest. She’s earned a degree in architecture, traveled extensively in Europe, and has performed in numerous theaters, symphonies, and choirs. She gives Sister Circle Seminars around the country, helping women identify their gifts as they celebrate their sisterhood. She is a fan of anything antique—humans included. Find out more at and and her historical blog:

A Measure of Memories

Honor your father and your mother,
as the LORD your God has commanded you,
so that you may live long and that it may go well with you
in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
Deuteronomy 5:16 (NIV)

Recently, I helped my ninety-year-old mother and father move from their home into a retirement home. It was a bittersweet time, yet they are both in good health and their new place is lovely, even resort-like.

But going through a long lifetime of things (they’ve been married sixty-nine years)…

Most traumatic about the move were the decisions they (but mostly Mom) were forced to make about their possessions. My sister and I would hold up a pretty vase or a dress pattern or a book and say, “Do you want to keep this?” Or sell it at the estate sale? Or give it away?

Many times Mom could say yes or no without much thought, but as we dug deeper into her life treasures, her answers became couched in “Well . . . maybe Amber would like that, or maybe I could call up some theater that might like to have it.”

It became very important for Mom to know that her things were used well, appreciated, and even beyond that, that they had new life beyond her. We were amazed at the way she found a local high school to take her fabric scraps, the sewing patterns, her yarn, and old sewing magazines. And the theater department at the university was thrilled with her vintage clothing (most beautifully hand sewn), with matching shoes, hats, and bags. But honestly, it complicated the moving process to find a good home for their things.

As the dining hutch was cleared out, the closets were emptied, the items to move were boxed up, we all started seeing how the things that were treasured were not the things that had the highest monetary value, but those things that had the highest memory value. A music box, with a porcelain girl on top that played “Happy Birthday” brought back a swell of birthday memories. A postal weight set that had belonged to my father’s father brought back images of a myriad of letters written and posted. A hand-sewn dress brought back the occasion it was worn, and a piece of jewelry prompted, “Your dad gave that to me on our fortieth anniversary.”

When our kids were asked what items they would like of Grandpa and Grandma’s, there was no mad dash for a 1940’s vase that might have value, but rather for the small items that were a part of their visits together. Our son only asked for a blue candy dish that sat on a corner table between the couches and always held sweets. The value of each item was measured by the memories it elicited. We found that the way to honor our parents’ lives was to honor them by appreciating the memories. And listening. And truly caring. More than once I opened my computer and transcribed the wonderful stories they told.

The difference between males and females came up during this process as Dad was ready to give his World War II uniforms to Goodwill, and my sister and I both yelled out, “No!” For even if he was willing to let go of this large piece of his past, we were not. At least not yet. And so my sister got his 1942 Air Force cadet uniform that he was married in, and I got his captain’s uniform that he was wearing when he came home to Mom after being in the South Pacific for over two years.

It’s an odd thing, rummaging through the objects of a life. What we keep, what we cherish, and what we set free is incongruous and even mystifying. Yet coming home from helping them move into this next phase of their very well-lived lives, I look at my own collection of things with new eyes—while making room for the items I took home from their house. All will eventually have to be gone through when we reach the time to let them go.

We are all accumulating evidence of our lives. What can be relinquished? What should be relinquished? To move on from one phase of life to the next always demands reflection, hard decisions, and sacrifice. But it comes down to this: what really matters?

We all know the answer to that. What matters are the memories, the times spent together, the moments of ordinary life that become extraordinary in hindsight. What matters is the loved shared in the past, and the love shared now, in this moment. What matters is the Lord God who is the keeper of time and the giver of all things.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (I Cor. 13:13 NIV).


Nancy Moser