The Last Gift

Seven years ago.

Just another of the lasts to remember that January and the beginning of February bring.

Mama’s birthday.  The last one she was here with us for.

Only, as life has a way of happening, we weren’t able to celebrate together.  One of the littles had gymnastics and the other one was under the weather.  So we had made plans on the phone that we would celebrate on Friday, three days later, at Stevi B’s with pizza and being together.

The one thing Mama had asked for was light.  In the form of fluorescent light bulbs for the fixture that hung over the dining room table.  The focus part, gathering spot, heart of her home.  Many a dream was shared, broken heart was comforted, peach was peeled, pea was shelled, homework was done, story was told, and guidance offered sitting around that table.  Under that light.

Fluorescent has never been my favorite, but it was the fixture Daddy installed after moving into that house on their December 17 anniversary weekend in 1977.  So in 2013, fourteen months after Daddy left this world, I was not going to argue the merits of lighting.  If Mama needed it, I was going to get it.

My tumbling little and I stopped by Lowe’s on the way to gymnastics.  Mama’s house was on the way, so we planned to get her bulbs and drop them by and see her for a minute and then head on to class.  I figured the errand of getting the long lights wouldn’t take long.  In.  Out.  Done.  On our way to see the birthday Maemae.

I was wrong.

I had NO IDEA that there were SO MANY options when it came to fluorescent lighting.  Daylight, bright, not so bright–which is what I felt standing in front of the options.  What if I picked the wrong one?  I had no idea what she’d been using and suspected that she might not know as well, since I don’t think we’d had to purchase any since Daddy passed.

Also talking with an under ten year old about lighting options gets interesting, if not helpful, results.  In an almost panic, I recall getting the lights needed, fingers crossed, hoping for the best.

We stopped by Mama’s.  I delivered her bulbs, which she said she was sure were fine, along with a hug, happy birthday wishes, and promises of pizza partying on Friday.  That’s what she said, “We’ll party on Friday.”

Which, of course, as the story goes, we did not.  She and I spent that Friday together in a hospital room waiting for red tape and hospital bureaucracy to make it possible for her to be transferred to the bigger hospital.  Critical time as it turns out, because maybe an earlier diagnosis could have made for a different ending.

But it was not to be.

Today I’m remembering my Mama.  On her birthday.  I’m thankful for this day 74 years ago that found her light coming into this world.  For this day that over the years I am sure she had to make most of her birthday cakes until one year when I woke up and realized, hey, maybe she doesn’t enjoy that as much as I think she does.  I’m thankful for the laughter and stories and joy that remembering my sweet and sassy Mama brings.

And I’m thankful for the realization that came to me this morning on Miss Sophie’s walk that the last gift I gave my Mama was light.  It was only a small beam compared to all the light she shone for me and so many others through the years.  But still, I am thankful.  She was a shining star who so often used her light to point towards the good.  “Find something to be grateful for,” she’d say.  “The Lord loves a grateful heart.”

It is with a grateful heart that I remember and thank God for the Mama I was given.  The woman who challenged me, who held my hand, who came after me when I was lost, who guided me, who held me when I cried, who cheered me on, who made me madder and happier than anyone else ever could.  I miss her with every breath.  Those fluorescent lights I bought seven years ago today have long burned out, but my Mama’s light still shines brightly.  Ever and always.

Love to all.

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