In thinking of the soon-to-be Thanksgiving holiday, I remember a quiet time spent with my mother a few days before she passed away. Cuddled within one of her hand-knitted afghans, she sat to the side of her favorite burgundy velvet rocking chair. We played a game of sorts, both of us tip-toeing around the elephant in the room.
Thanksgiving was only a few short days away, with Christmas coming soon afterward. Only God knew for sure, but I suspected that my mother would not be sharing either holiday with the whole of our family. Moving two steps back while taking one step forward, I pretended like everything was the same as the year before. Except nothing was the same. Not even close. My mother was dying.
So what game was I playing a few days before Thanksgiving? “Christmas Is Coming Early!” Unwrapping a few decorations to delight my mother’s tiring eyes, I lit the fireplace mantle in sparkling miniature white lights. Next I pulled a tiny tree from a new box, fluffing the faux branches of dark green up and down and to the right or to the left. I wanted it to look perfect before placing it atop the red brick and stone hearth of the fireplace. “Do you like it, Mom?” I asked. She nodded, “Yes.”
Next, I carried a box of decorations from my parent’s garage storage area. There, I discovered some of Mother’s favorites, including various Christmas dolls made of porcelain dressed in ruffled red velvet or shades of green taffeta. Atop their breakable heads were wigs made of mohair dyed in blonde, brunette or dark red, the color of wine. Looking at me, they smiled with eyes of glass blue. Each had tiny hands with long, delicate fingers of polish that shined in the light. Clasping their silk strings carefully, I held them to the rose-colored lamp in order for Mother to get a better view. “Where should we display them?” I asked.
I waited for her then, but no response. Instead, I saw slight hints of clear tears in the corner of her eyes. My heart broke then. I had tried to pretend…but the game was over. I had drawn the wrong card, it seemed. “Do Not Pass GO,” it read.
“I don’t want to see them,” my mother said, barely able to speak. “Look around,” she motioned, waving her arms about the room. “Everything you see is just stuff,” she whispered, with all her strength and all her might.
One of my greatest Life Lessons came during the end of my mother’s days. Nothing is greater in all of this living world than FAMILY. Remember this during Thanksgiving Day and each day afterward. Everything else is just…..Stuff.