As I was leaning over the bed to tuck in the freshly laundered sheets, I noticed a familiar site on the lower ledge of my dad’s bedside table. I looked twice thinking that I was mistaken, but when I turned back I realized that I was right. I had seen something that has been absent from my life for about 24 months. The site of my mom’s beautiful, signature left-handed script brought me back to a time and place of utter joy and happiness. But the reality of her handwriting on an old magazine was a heart breaking reminder that this beloved soul is now gone from our daily lives. I tossed the magazine inside my bag, unable to focus on what mom wrote for fear of becoming “too sad” in the midst of a nice weekend home on Cape Cod with my dad.
I’ve been truly devastated by all the tragedy in our world lately – the shootings, wild fires and senseless loss of life is something that I desperately want to fix and undo! I want to make a difference, yet I don’t even know how to start. As I thought about these feelings today, my mind went back to that magazine I found on the Cape and of course to my mom. Before I took it out of the bag to read, I pondered what mom would say about the events in the world right now. Mom believed that we can make a difference in the world one person at a time. She taught her children how to embrace this belief by the way she lived and loved. As a mother to 3 children and wife to her beloved Joey, she knew her reality was not to go to Washington DC, or to some far off place to advocate for peace and justice. She knew that she could make a positive contribution by being a change agent in her family, church and community. She did this so well and in a myriad of ways. As kids, we didn’t even realize the scope of her volunteer activities (President of the church women’s club, homeless shelter volunteer, caretaker for her ailing parents and in-laws, Needy Fund volunteer, RN in a hospital and busy doctor’s office, and much more) but needless to say she practiced what she preached and generations of women, patients and friends have benefitted from her unconditional love and wise counsel. My mom admired the life of Saint Mother Teresa who said “If you cannot feed a hundred people, feed one.”
I felt better after thinking about her life and positive attitude and promised myself that I would work harder to be a change agent in my family and community. Thinking back to the magazine, I decided it was time to take a look and see what mom had written. When I pulled it out of my bag, the first thing I noticed was the date…it was the July/Aug 2016 edition of House Beautiful. My mom went home to God on September 9, 2016. I found it hard to believe that she was still writing/planning at the end of the 2016 summer when the cancer had invaded her brain and incapacitated her in many ways. As I looked at her script, I was struck by two things: her name and the written note. It was clear to me by the way her name was written that mom was practicing writing her name. Even at this late stage in her disease, she did not give up or give in. She sought to live until the moment her God called her home. Then looking at her notes, I smiled at the detail – she had written the page number of some curtains she liked and wrote “bedroom window.” Mom was a consummate decorator and she continued doing what she loved, even when it was very hard for her! With only one month to live, she was planning to redecorate her bedroom window. Incredible. This small and seemingly insignificant script is so much more than a little note on a magazine. It is an effort, a cry even, from a woman in pain, to live well – to live with purpose and joy and love, until the end of her earthly journey. Instead of curling up in a corner and cursing God for her plight, she went right on bringing beauty to her home and her family. She persevered! How many of us can say that we would do the same thing, given her circumstances?
I don’t think it was an accident that I found mom’s magazine this weekend. I think she knows we need her constant guidance and finding her note is her way of giving it to us. Her advice? Be a change agent – bring joy, beauty and love to your family and community! And trust that by doing this, you WILL make a positive difference in this tumultuous world, one person at a time.