I took this picture in the summer of 2015. I’d flown down to Florida to move Mom from her two-bedroom condo to a studio apartment in a 55+ community near my wife and me in Georgia. In this photo, Mom is watching the movers pack what little of her life’s possessions she’d be able to take to her new place.
When I took the photo, I was oblivious to what SHOULD have been clear. She’s hurting. Her heart is bleeding as she helplessly watches strangers wrap and pack and stack what are much more than furniture and dishes and towels and pictures. She is watching her memories, her dreams, her hopes – her life slip from her fingers.
Each time I look at the photo I regret so much not having recognized her heartbreak. But I was a man on a mission. I needed to get her close to me. She was no longer safe to live by herself.
A year or so before she died in her apartment in Georgia, she began offering me odds and ends from her new place. Maybe she had a feeling her months were now numbered, and she wanted – she NEEDED – to give me something tangible of herself, things that were totally insignificant to me, but to her held special meaning.
She offered me a stovetop coffee percolator. What did I need with a percolator? We own a Keurig. I politely refused. Another time she told me to take her old blanket. I declined. We have more blankets in our house than we know what to do with. Another time, “Here, take these sheets.” But what did I need with more sheets?
And now she’s gone.
If you still have your parents – or parent – be glad. It will seem only a few moments and they will be gone. So, please, for their sake – AND for yours – don’t be so much a person ‘on a mission’ to get things done that you miss the subtle heartbreak of your mom or dad as a lifetime of memories – a LIFETIME of memories – slowly come to an end for them.
Take the coffee pot. And the bed sheets. And the dishes. Those baubles may be unimportant to you, but to your mom or dad they represent their desperate need to give you something of their lives – and their memories.
I wish someone had told me these things years ago, before she died.