It comes to everyone, yet I managed to live 63 years without it coming to me. “Because I could not stop for Death, it kindly stopped for me…” wrote Emily Dickinson. Death did stop at my door, and it took my precious mother.
On September 25, 2018, my mother took a brief break from cooking dinner to sit outside on the back steps, something she did regularly to get fresh air and listen to the birds. We don’t know how it happened, but she fell and hit her head on the concrete driveway. For the first five days in Trauma, she opened her eyes and responded to commands. She knew who we were and she responded to us, but on the 11th day, she left us for eternity. My brother, my father, and I were with her as she slipped away.
As we have traveled the road of shock and grief, I have had plenty of time to think of my mother’s legacy. I have uncovered thousands of scraps of paper with handwritten quotes she copied from books, bulletins, sermons, poems. I have learned that her life was not as easy as she made it look, and this brings me to the most enduring legacy she leaves.
The scraps of paper I found have a common theme – suffering in silence. They tell of a woman who struggled with many things but who found her hope in the words of promise, encouragement, and prayer that she found everywhere she looked. She never complained, and her mantra was frequently “This, too, shall pass.”
My mother had what she called a “notecard ministry.” She was known for her kind and loving notes to everyone from close friends to people she felt deserved notice. I discovered that she wrote these notes in draft form first, then copied them onto note stationery. The last one she wrote was still in draft, addressed to a woman in her doctor’s office who had “so kindly helped me and spoke with gentleness when I asked questions.” These notes lifted the people who received them, but I have realized they lifted my mother more.
Suffering can lead one to isolation and bitterness, yet my mother did not share her own frustrations of aches and pains and despair. Instead, she lifted others, and in so doing, lifted herself. This is her legacy. Lifting others and taking time to notice and thank them can take us out of our own suffering and into a place of peace.
In my mother’s memory, would you join me in writing a hand-written note once a month to someone who deserves notice and gratitude? The purpose is not to send a copy to the recipient’s supervisor for a pat on the back; it is to simply say, “I see you. You are doing good things, and I am grateful.” Here is the first.
You lived a life of sacrifice for me, and I am grateful. From the times you said you “loved the chicken neck” so that we could have the best pieces of fried chicken to the times you updated your older clothes so I could have the newest style, I am grateful. For every time on your travels you went in a gift shop and bought something not for you, but for me, I am grateful. All of my prettiest things came from those trips. There are so many more times you sacrificed and gave to me, and I know that most of them I will never know. What I do know is that you were deeply loved by so many, and I count myself tremendously blessed to have had you for 63 years. I wish you could see me become a grandmother and spoil your great-grandchild, but I know how to do it because you were the perfect grandmother to my children. I promise to follow your model and carry on your legacy. You will never leave my heart, and I will always be your little girl.
Love you forever,
If you take my challenge and join me in writing one note a month, would you post a comment and tell me about it? My mother would love it so much. Her name was Ruth.