When I returned from my 95 year old mother’s funeral, two provinces over, I brought an entire suitcase of memories with me; passed on by my older sister who bore the burden of the major sorting of our parent’s possessions.
At home, the case sat untouched for weeks. On the day I felt ready to go through it, the Preacher decided I needed space and left me alone.
I spent the day with Mom, or so it felt. Remembering. Thinking. Sifting through the fragments of a lovely, generous life. Lace doilies she’d crocheted. Hand-copied recipes, many from her own mother. Embroidered handkerchiefs, almost transparent. Cards, notes, photos and small gifts I and my family had given her over the years – some in my very early years.
On one childish homemade birthday card, I had written in my best primary-student scrawl, “Mommy, I have nothing to give you but this card. And my love.” At the bottom she’d added her own message – waiting a half-century for my eyes: “Dear heart….what more could you give me?”
I found tiny vintage bookmarks and stickers. A few yellowed notebooks of Bible School assignments, penciled in her unmistakable rounded script. Several of my Readers Digest articles. I unfolded a soft burgundy cape I’d given her. I’d worn it to her funeral, and felt her embrace.
The case also held an early scrapbook of carefully snipped pictures of furniture, likely from the Eaton’s catalogue. I smiled at the confirmation that my compulsive habit of furniture-rearranging came to me honestly.
I lifted the lid of a flat cardboard box, crumbling with age and found clippings of poems and quotes and old gospel tracts. The poems she saved spoke of faith in God, her strength and her hope. One tract had a strange title: The Painted Woman, a rant against cosmetics, perhaps explaining why she refused to wear make-up.
Mom’s jewelry box came home too. A battered rectangular cedar casket, sloped at one end. It held her brooches and the wedding rings my father had given her over sixty-two years earlier.
I pinned the brooches to a tapestry pillow and tucked the rest into the antique trunk in my bedroom – Mom’s childhood possession. Forty years earlier, when I’d left for college, she’d emptied it and sent it along, crammed tightly with everything she thought I’d need. Take good care of that, she’d said.
I returned it when I didn’t need it anymore. Then, decades later, when Mom didn’t need it anymore, she returned it to me. Now I emptied it to make room for her memories. The trunk had come full circle.
The greatest treasure a Christian mother can give her children is abiding love. But I also have a trunk of mementos that reveal who Mom was even before I knew her. What she believed along the way. Who and what she prized. They remind me, on my way to my own end, what matters most: loving God and his word and treasuring family and friends.