I hope this letter finds you well. I have been meaning to drop you a line but I have been so busy at my new job. I’ve been thinking about you an awful lot and I can’t wait for the next time I see you!
So much has happened in the last few months. I have so much to catch you up on… So here goes. I started working at your favorite store! I needed to help out with all the kid’s tuition and while I am still decorating here and there, I don’t have constant clients and needed to fill up the time in between. I joke with people that “I was already NOT folding laundry at home, so I might as well get paid while still not folding laundry somewhere else!”
I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the whole “job” thing but I decided to make the best of it and jump in. Before I was hired, after telling her all the things I’ve done over the years, the manager told me I was the whole package! Haha! Made me think of you. I mean, you taught me all I know, so I give you credit for ½ my creativity. Dad gets the other half! And with all that creativity, I got hired to be…. a cashier! Woo hoo! Either way, I told myself I was going to love it and I do. It’s amazing what God can do in your life if you let Him into all the parts, even the ones that don’t seem so glamorous.
I didn’t realize how much you shopped at that hobby store until I saw the name brands of all the things in the store. I mean, you bought all the fabric for Evie’s bedding and drapes there. Every burp rag and bib was created from some of that fabric in the store and all the pillows over all my couches. I remember the day we walked into the store and I picked out all the baby bedding not knowing if she was a boy or a girl. We picked a gender neutral “moon and stars” motif and then I painted the nursery to match. It was adorable. I can’t forget the 500 pounds of scrapbooking material you made all of our scrapbooks in! Holy Moly! I still haven’t used 1/10 of it that you passed down to me over the years. You have that way about you, like a machine getting 100 things accomplished faster than any human on the planet. I love that about you. So many skills and organization poured out of you!
As I stand in my check out lane waiting for customers, I come across all these grey haired ladies that look like you. Sometimes they are shopping with their daughters and I tell them to go somewhere fun for lunch. I pray for those daughters who seem annoyed with their moms. I know I didn’t always appreciate you before I had children and I’m sorry for those times I took you for granted. I just want to tell those daughters to savor this time! Sometimes I see those grey haired ladies with their grandkids (babysitting and helping out) and I think of you and how you’d always call me and say you needed a “grandkid fix” and you’d come visit.
Remember that time when I lost a baby, and you decided to come over a week later to visit me? You just had a feeling.. and sure enough right as you were getting ready to leave that’s when I delivered my angel baby. You stood upstairs in the bathroom with Joseph and I, as I sobbed from the depths of my soul holding my tiny Josephine, and you said, “Spring, that’s not your baby, it’s just her shell. Your baby’s in heaven.” And then we baptized her. I don’t know how you knew I would deliver that day. But you did, and you were there for me. You reminded me that death didn’t win.
When visiting, you always brought goodies of some sort in a pretty package and some clothes for the kids you found at a really good sale. You never came empty-handed and you are the reason I will never buy anything full price. You gotta make every dollar count, right? Especially with a big family like you and I had.
As a child I remember you could go shopping for HOURS. You had all your ads and knew all the sales and God-forbid we went clothes shopping and I had to try all the things on. I still hate clothes shopping to this day because of that, and I have a couple of friends who have gifted me their own clothing overstock because I refuse to go shopping and apparently I am frumpy. My favorite items though, are the clothes I got from your closet recently. I get complimented on them all the time! Who-da thought you had timeless taste? I know that it makes you happy. I look cute, and you picked them out. Win win. I’m sure you feel a little pride in that!
Sometimes Mom, there are little grey haired ladies that come into my line who are wearing things that you have been known to wear. They look so put together and I confess, I told one of those little old ladies that I hoped she had someone to give her a big hug when she got home because she looked so cozy in her sweater and scarf! I wanted to hug her but that would be weird. Or would it?
At my store there is cute camping artwork everywhere. I reminds me of all the trips we took when I was young. It also reminds me of the time when you and dad drove across the country and stayed in your camper to keep my kids close to their sick brother. You would love to decorate your camper with this décor! And the bear artwork! It reminds me of your family room downstairs and all the photos of our vacations we took together. You taught me to be an outdoor girl. I don’t know how someone who can shop like you, could also brave the wilderness! But you did and of course you were dressed for the occasion.
At work, when I head back to the break room for my lunch, I pass by the home accents aisle with the pictures of the churches and the bible verses.… I remember it was the same aisle where I spoke to you a year before, for an hour on my cell phone. I had been shopping for a client and was pacing back and forth talking to you, trying to help you understand. I was skilled at explaining things in different ways to my son with special needs, so it was easier for me than it was for dad, to convince you we had to run those tests. You asked me why we couldn’t just leave you alone but I told you, we just had to find a diagnosis and a reason why you were losing your memories before we could just let you be. I tried to tell you, plead with you, that we weren’t against you and that we were helping you and not conspiring against you. I remember feeling such despair, like we had switched roles and I had to convince you that I knew best. It’s a feeling I will never forget.. acting like a mother to my own mother. It broke my heart.
You eventually let me come to all your doctor appointments and speak to all of your doctors. We eliminated medications and got you some new supplements and we started to see an improvement in your memory! All the practice I had dealing with doctors over the years really prepared me to be your advocate. It was an honor to care for you!
While I shopped frequently at that same hobby store I now work at, I purchased things there for the project of a lifetime! I was renovating/decorating a church basement over the summer. It was to be a place of healing for women who suffered from trauma and it needed to feel cozy and welcoming for them. It was an answer to prayer Mom, because a week before I got the decorating job- I had prayed for something more; a job I could help touch lives using the gifts God gave me. I was a woman who had suffered my own trauma, and now I got to decorate a room meant for healing. I poured my heart out into that project and paid so much attention to every detail just like you do, and you said you could hardly wait to see it in real life. When I showed you pictures you would “ooh and ahh” and tell dad how talented I was. I beamed from the inside out knowing you were proud of me.
A couple of months later you started to decline and landed in the hospital. The doctors removed the newly discovered mass in your colon, and verified it metastasized to your liver. The surgeon said chemo would kill you faster and wipe out your memory even more if we tried to treat it. My worst fears were confirmed. Cancer invaded another family member, and after all I had tried to do, I couldn’t save you. All my life I’d been scared of losing you or dad. I chalk it up to being the youngest child. I couldn’t even conceptualize what life would be like without you. I’d barley gotten 40 years and I still needed you! My kids are still young.. who is going to tell me things will be okay if you are gone?? The doctor told us after your surgery, that you had a couple of months left if we were lucky.
So many times Joseph and I would stand around the kitchen island discussing you and all you’ve done for us and how much we’d miss you. We’d both end up crying. That first month after your surgery was touch and go. You were in agony! We thought we’d lose you around Christmas. But then one day shortly after the prayer of anointing of the sick, you got up and made your bed! We couldn’t believe it!
During those next 10 months on hospice, us kids spent a lot of time with you and took turns caring for you while giving dad some breaks. I’m pretty sure he’s going to be a saint after caring for you. But you were already going to be a saint after being married to him for 59 years, so there’s that! Sometimes you were a difficult patient because your mind started to go faster and faster, but you never forgot any of us kids. Dad was your source of comfort and you wanted him there constantly. You guys lived out what it truly means to love one another in sickness and in health… for better or for worse.
During that 10 months from your diagnosis, I came to visit often. One trip, I poured out my heart to you and dad about my kids and struggles going on in their lives. We had that kind of discussion we used to have all the time, where I’d bask in your affirmation, love and guidance. I’ve always appreciated your hindsight and wisdom. You had been pretty out of it that day Mom, but you stood up and hugged me, rubbing my back and saying, it would all work out. It was so good to have my mama back for a moment. Your words were not as prophetic as they once were but they held weight in that simple sentence. “It will all work out.”
Each time spent with you, each conversation, each lunch date, I savored it. Peace was made within your family that had not been there for decades and miracles happened while you were dying. Healing occurred in our family tree. It was beautiful. At least 3 times we thought it was the end for you and each time I’d bawl my eyes out thinking it was the really the end, but God wasn’t done with you; with untangling the knots that held you captive to this world. It was unfathomable thinking of what it would be like to finally lose you, but God was lovingly preparing you for heaven.
Mom, I’ve NEVER lost anyone I was close to. And YOU- you are my best friend. You know me from the inside out. When most people were done having kids you welcomed me at age 38. You were always right about all the things.. There! I admit it!! You also believed in me and told me you admired my courage. But you were the one with the courage who fought battles no one even knew about… You never lost faith which you passed down to me, even through the toughest times of your life. You are my prayer warrior! And a fan of my humor.
One day at my cashier job at the hobby store, a woman came up and commented on my ring. Your wedding ring. I never take it off. It’s the one you wore when I was growing up and the one I slipped off and on your fingers to try on, as a little girl. The lady said it was lovely, and I told her it was yours. She asked me how you were and I told her you had left us in the fall. Her eyes got misty and she said “The first Christmas is always the hardest..” She seemed to understand my heart and we stood looking at each other over the counter, both of us bleary eyed until another customer came and she had to leave. She spoke volumes to me sharing tears with a stranger. Simple, yet profound. Like your wedding ring.
Our store is known for its elevator music that plays continuously in the background. The song I sang at your funeral comes on at least once a day and I hum the words quietly to myself. I feel like these are little kisses from heaven saying you are near.
Mom there are so many people who remind me of you walking through my line. I try to love on them and ask them about their day, and their projects. I smile into their eyes and tell them the things they are making for their kids, really will be treasured forever. Just like the scrapbooks you made for all of us documenting our whole lives.
God is giving me a lot of grace during this season. I’d love to keep being a decorator.. keep beautifying spaces and using my creativity. Yet, this passing of time at the store you apparently lived in, makes me feel closer to you. It helps me to stop over-thinking each day. I interact with people constantly and it forces me to make a choice each morning to show up in my life and to “choose joy”. “The Joy of the Lord is my strength.” It’s my superpower actually. Without it, I don’t know if I would get out of the house. This little job makes me get out.
I feel like there’s a void so deep inside of me. The woman who brought me into the world is gone from it… and things that mattered before don’t anymore.
But Christ’s Joy tells me my separation from you is not forever. That Joy wants to leap from my broken heart and love on all the people who need reminders of Christ’s love. That Joy heals me and helps me see the hurting; to be present with them. That Joy tells me this phase of my life is my mission.
I almost called you the other day, Mama. I realized I had a window of time and as soon as the thought entered my brain, it dissipated with the realization of you being gone for 5 months already… I still can’t wrap my head around it.
So for right now, I’m gonna be the best cashier at your favorite store and help out my family little by little. I’m gonna go where He sends me. I will do small things with great love like you did, and I will shine that light of His. That same light that you live in right now. When I choose His Joy, I am closer to you. And I miss you so… I can’t wait to see you again.