For Chip: He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion. —Unknown

Monday, February 1, 2016

A Letter to Mom

Dear Mom:
I wanted to catch you up on a few things since it has been awhile since we talked.  I was on my way to visit you in July when I got a call from hospice that you were unresponsive, and that I needed to get there as soon as possible.  I called the boys while driving and became uncontrollably teary, and was thankful when I arrived at the facility.  I was able to compose myself, and was hoping that Jeff would get there shortly. I asked John to call the church and ask for someone to come as soon as possible. They came within thirty minutes. 
I didn’t say much when you were having trouble breathing because I was afraid I would start crying.  I remained silent instead of encouraging you, but never let go of your hand and stroked your hair so you would feel my presence.  Jeff was very strong and loving when he bent over you to tell you he was there and everything was ok.  It was less than thirty minutes after he arrived that you took your last breath.
The grief counselor said I must tell you some things in order to heal.  You knew everything about me including my strengths and weaknesses, and could sense anything left unsaid because of your great intuitive nature. 
You knew how much I cared for you.  I always held your hand and gently brushed your hair back.  You would often tell someone that I was a “good kid”.  You did that often and I liked hearing it.  I was shocked when you asked me who was going to take care of me.  I never thought you were going to die even with the presence of hospice because I thought you were much too strong. Jeff and Carla met me at your house on a weekend that was the beginning of the end.  It was a precious time to have them there for support and encouragement.
I wanted to tell you about your beautiful funeral that the boys and Carla helped organize.  You must have been surprised that James and his girlfriend Jessica were there, and James sang two songs and played the piano.  John gave a nice talk about you and read the sweet obituary that was written by Jeff.  Carla, Jeff and John presented scriptures that you would have enjoyed, and were appropriate for the occasion.  Jeff and James accompanied the singer, and it was lovely.
Dressing you was mentally difficult.  We were not at your house or city so I went shopping and found the most beautiful blue dress.  The dress was in the “mother of the bride” category, and you would have loved the sparkly fabric and your favorite color blue.  Your casket was also a deep blue that John located.  He was amazing and never left my side during the planning.  He has always been faithful to you and Gramps. He made numerous trips to see you “one last time”.
 I always thought it was a bit morbid to say the deceased person looked good.  However, you looked beautiful with pink lips and styled hair adding just the right touch.  Your jeweled butterfly pin was placed on the right side of your dress.  The gorgeous accessories included the silver cuff and earrings that I had worn at Jeff and Carla’s wedding.  Did I ever think I would take pictures of someone that had died? I took pictures and was so happy to have documentation of the occasion. It numbs some of the rough times you had with the two hospital stays and the facility that you wanted to leave.
The hospice nurse removed your ring while Jeff and I debated about leaving it on.  I wear your rings all the time.  I told you they didn’t interest me, but I never leave home without them because it makes me feel like a “superhero” with special powers. You would be so excited to know that Jeff and Carla are having a baby girl.  You always loved girls and maybe I can hand down one of your rings so she will know a little bit about you.  I will let her know what a powerful, energetic, and religious woman you were.  You will be an excellent role model to this baby even though you are not on earth.
The flowers at the funeral were beautiful.  Jeff and James accompanied a second singer and James played background piano music during the service.  We used the pastor from Oak Forest since he knew you well.  We used the cemetery chapel for the service and buried you in the plot by Dad. We had a dinner at your weekly restaurant, Tony’s.  The candy from the restaurant that you routinely stuffed into your pockets has shown up all over house and car.  I want to hang on to every piece of candy and even keep one in my pocket to pretend you are with me.
We found a wonderful florist in Houston and they specialize in pastel flowers.  Your casket was covered with magnificent flowers in pale pinks and white.  We also bought a beautiful spray that had darker versions of the flowers on the casket.  I have never seen flowers this beautiful.  You received a generous number of sprays.  One was from a woman that was in your Sunday school class when she was a child.  I thought that was really sweet.  
Overall, I think you would be amazed how your grandchildren organized, sang and spoke at the funeral.  I would never have dreamed that it would be so beautiful.  At the gravesite I took a white and pale pink flower and handed the two flowers to each woman that was there.  It was a nice touch as they later laid them on the table at Tony’s.  I waited until the coffin was covered up with dirt and the flowers placed at the gravesite.  I was not about to leave you as if the job was not completed.  Although this act seemed to be uncomfortable for some, I let the dirt blow over me in the humid one hundred degree heat as I made sure the task was completed.
Pallbearers included the boys (grandchildren) along with your neighbors Ray, Mark, and Don.  They were wonderful taking us to breakfast and offering referrals and support.  Your neighbor Pat was the best helper in completing tasks.  Not only is she very funny, but very efficient.  Her call from the Dollar Store was very sweet when she said she was buying candy for children in the neighborhood.  However, it was followed by “I hate kids”.  The humor and southern accent reminds me of a reality show.
The things I miss about you being gone is your physical body and ability to talk to you every day.  I could always fill you in on everything.  Since I called you every day without fail I recently called your house and let the phone ring over and over.  I now have that number forwarded to me. 
I was unemotional when you told me you thought your death was coming soon.  I could never have known how much I would miss you.  You were my supporter, encourager, and loved me.  I thought I knew what grief was when Dad died.  Evidently, I was clueless because I have suffered so much and cried uncontrollably at the most inopportune times. I finally went to see a grief counselor which was productive.  When she said I would need to come back for many more sessions I thought of what Dad said when the chaplain came to visit; “How much is this going to cost me?”  We would have all laughed.
Hope you have peace and serenity.  You lived a very long and fruitful life.  I always found it amazing that you seemed to make an impact on people everywhere.  God is good and you were faithful to the end. 
Love from your daughter through eternity.
P.S.  Thanks for calling me the night that I wrote this letter.  I could not believe it was your voice, and that you called me while I was driving in the car.  It was hard to believe you were calling me just as I used to call you.  After you hung up I woke from the dream.  I went back to sleep and then I saw Dad.  I was so surprised.  He was watching a small TV and I told him he could afford something nicer.  He never said anything but I saw his face just as I remembered.  Thanks for both of you visiting me.  It was comforting.  Love you both very much.  There is no doubt that I will see you again.