Portions of this article were contributed by Sam Neider Owensby.

Each of our stories is a journey still in progress, as we discover, create, and become with possibilities beyond imagination. (Gong, Gerrit W. We Each Have A Story. April 2022 General Conference.)

When I left home to begin building a new chapter in my life, I made a decision that still haunts me. I had a unique box of my life’s collectables which I had carefully selected over the years and carried with me when my parents sold their Burdette Court home in which I grew up. Even knowing this, as I was packing my things to move from their “new” or most recent home on Kachina Lane, I stared at the sealed box and dared not open it. I reasoned with myself that since I had not even glanced inside for nearly a decade, it was time to let these things of my childhood go; yet I knew if I unbound the box and peeked inside, I would keep the childish treasures. So, I took it straight outside to the trash bin.

It was only a few days later that I ran to the outdoor trash cans, hoping the box had been saved, only to find nothing there. I can still see the delicate, orange flowered purse that I kept the coins my father gave me from his international travels. The lost letters from my cousins and friends are still closed to my mind as being sealed in their envelopes as if they were never read. My earliest diaries, my thoughts, dreams, daily doings vanished along with many other irreplaceable treasures. This is perhaps why I originally decided to collect and keep a box of a few significant items for each of my children.

So, when my daughter Samantha brought me a box of  “stuff” she was getting rid of as she left her teenage life behind and leapt into her twenties, I immediately knew at least half the items were keepsakes, a token of remembrance of her journey through time. I believe these keepsakes are reminders of who we are as we weave through and navigate life’s path laid before us, shaping our own unique story.

Fast forward a few years, and Samantha’s box of stuff was brought to the forefront when we needed to downsize homes. She had moved back east from Southern California, and we were moving to the Crystal Coast from Bethesda, Maryland to a much smaller home. In the moving-shuffle, and the need to unload items, I dropped off a few boxes of Sam’s at her home in Charleston including some delicate china.

The box I had given Sam that she’d never opened was a collection of every stage of her life. I had saved letters from cousins, her first haircut, paintings from her childhood, stories she had written when she was young, and some other keepsakes. My intention was to try to capture every era of her life in a small, but impactful snapshot.

Samantha’s Thoughts

I didn’t really open that box until 2024 when I had to downsize, and as I was peeling through everything that my mom had saved, a few things occurred to me:

  1. Context: I should have gone through it with her to get context for each piece. My mom would have likely remembered the stories and why she kept certain things, which would have not only been fun for both of us, but likely would have sparked memories and things that I’d forgotten. 
  2. How To Choose: I’m sure every parent thinks that their child’s every scribble is worth saving, but how do you (or how did my mom) choose what to keep and what to throw away? And, as someone who saves every scribble from my niece and nephew, how do I discern what is worth keeping and what can be let go, especially when I become a mom? 
  3. (Advice for the youth) Your Journey. Your Identity: Every child leaves home and has some kind of identity crisis. There’s a whole narrative about how we need to leave and “find ourselves.” The funny thing is (and in retrospect, now that I’m a little bit older, experienced, and wiser…) my parents knew who I was the entire time and I, inevitably, returned home with a few more scrapes and bruises than when I left, but, ultimately unscathed, and — to my core — still the same Sam. My take and advice for kids/teens/20somethings (and this is a relatively blanketed statement that might not apply to everyone, but has been my experience): your parents know you the best, and above all, God knows you the best. Ask them, and Him, what your strongest and weakest qualities are. Work to improve them. Learn everything you can. Listen to them. It makes sense later and will save you a whole lot of time and heartbreak.

Inevitably, the things that are important to a child change, and some of the treasures that my mom kept were fun (some, maybe even a little embarrassing) reminders of what life was like. It gave me an opportunity to revisit my childhood, tell my husband some stories that I’d forgotten and give him a glimpse into what I was like as a child.

Tanya’s Conclusion

[E]very family has keepsakes. Families collect furniture, books, porcelain, and other valuable things, then pass them on to their posterity. Such beautiful keepsakes remind us of loved ones now gone and turn our minds to loved ones unborn. They form a bridge between family past and family future. (Gong, Gerrit W. We Each Have A Story. April 2022 General Conference.)

Along with a few items from my youth, my parents also passed down some family pieces with purpose to me such as my Grandmother Anderson’s amethyst jewelry, since she, my mother and I were all born in February; my father’s Bible which he used daily, given to him and signed by his office staff, was gifted to me. Several other items, including my mother’s genealogy work, family pictures, and mementos, were also left for me to preserve.

Although these precious, physical items I was given mean much to me, the most valuable heritage passed down were not necessarily tangible. They were things spoken, observed, and witnessed in quiet moments and daily doings.

In addition, through the years and with intention, I’ve collected my family’s Patriarchal Blessings, Priesthood blessings, baptism and Priesthood ordinance certificates, my mother’s Book of Remembrance, my father’s diary, and so forth. Through these precious keepsakes and the spiritually tangible memories, I have discovered my progenitor’s stories and examples of faith, fortitude, and endurance.

I have chosen to build upon those tales of triumph and loss as I have captured, collected, and passed down these treasures to my posterity. I have chosen to teach my descendants those things that matter most, such as their true identity and purpose; for they are sons and daughters of God who belong to the House of Israel, which is a heritage filled with glorious, eternal promises and blessings as well as great and wonderful responsibilities.

Samantha’s Conclusion

As we approach the sunset of our lives, the greatest legacy we can leave to our posterity is a life full of example that will stand as a beacon of goodness for generations to come.  Unknown

Legacy and family history is something that I’d always known about, but hadn’t paid much attention to the impact that it’s had on my life and the strength that it gave me. My mom is a family historian. My grandma was as well. I know my family on both my mom and my dad’s side. I’ve met great grandparents on both sides, and I’ve heard the same stories, some dating back hundreds of years, about my family. It wasn’t until I left home that I realized that many people don’t have that knowledge of where they came from. I’ve always known, thanks to my parents, for keeping the stories and traditions alive. My question is, what do you do with all that knowledge, and how do you pass it down?

As Mother’s Day approaches, I sit here in awe and immeasurable appreciation for my mom – for being a pillar of strength and spirituality for our family, for having the foresight and inspiration to keep things that tell our story and remind us of who we are from an earthly and eternal perspective, and for showing me how to be the best mom on the planet — nobody gives you a handbook for life or parenting, but I’ve got 2 incredible parents as examples.