The holidays have always been a time of togetherness for my family and some of my oldest memories are from this season. It’s only natural for me to “remember when,” so it never comes as a surprise when I develop that unmistakable longing for my mom. If only there were a way to satisfy such a longing with conversation or a hug! Of course, it’s impossible, since Mom passed away in 2008. Recently, a conversation I had with my friend, Jean, about our mothers gave me an idea, and while it can’t help fulfill my yearning as a daughter who has lost her mom, it might make a difference someday for you.
After her mother’s death several years ago, Jean found herself hesitating over an old sweater as she cleaned out her mother’s belongings. Rather than going into the donation box, somehow the sweater found its way home with her. In our conversation, Jean told me there have been a few times over the ensuing years that she’s pulled the old sweater off the hanger and actually worn it. She shared that the softness of the sweater next to her skin feels like an embrace from her mom, a sense of being enveloped by her essence and her love. I’m touched by this lovely sentiment.
Sadly, many of us will face the deconstructing of our parents’ household somewhere along life’s journey. Knowing first-hand the stress involved in this difficult endeavor, it’s not uncommon to become an automated machine with “donate, trash, sell, or giveaway” the words of the day. Dismantling a home of many years can become a chore to endure and rarely do we utter the word “keep.” In sorting through my mother’s belongings after she passed away, I chose to keep several of her decorative teacups, a ceramic cat, a ’60’s “lady” vase, a few knickknacks and even her spurs. While in no way diminishing the sentimental value of these items, I’ve come to realize they simply can’t offer the same intrinsic experience as an article of clothing. No way can I cuddle with a spur! Saving an item of Mom’s clothing was the furthest thing from my mind during those disquieting days. I was all about tidying up and moving stuff out. It has taken time and distance for me to recognize what I will call the “power of softness” and what it would have meant to me to have one of my mom’s old sweaters or even her bathrobe.
As a daughter, if you find yourself in the position of sorting through parents’ belongings, may I suggest stopping long enough to save something soft? Fold it up and tuck it away. Grieving happens in stages. It comes and goes. You may not even think about or touch this precious garment again for quite a while. If, however, somewhere down the road, like me, you experience this longing for your loved one, that “softness” might become a cherished treasure, more special than you ever imagined.
I miss you, Mom.