Thursday, January 7, 2010


At the age of 82, my mother went to heaven on May 22 of this year. For all my 47 years, I spent Christmas with Mom back in our hometown in upstate New York, even the last nine while I've been a California resident. This first Christmas without her will be a sad one, but one made more tender by a loving act of kindness.

Yesterday I got a slip in my mailbox to pick up a package at the post office. From the zip code listed, I thought the parcel was from a particular friend who lives near my hometown. Was I surprised to find that it was actually from the manager of the senior citizens' apartment complex where my mother had lived. He had been very kind to us during my mother's illness, and here was an unexpected present from him and his wife, whom I had met only once.

Of all the thoughtful gestures extended to me immediately following my mother's death, theirs had really touched me. When I opened by mother's apartment and invited her neighbors in to see if there was anything they wanted, the manager's wife came. It is the only time I've ever seen her. She picked up a few things that day and told me to stop by for dinner if I was ever back in the area.

A couple days later, when I was leaving Mom's apartment for the last time, the manager came out to my car to hug me, and he told me that one of the things his wife picked up was an angel ornament my mother had. Instead of using the ornament at their home, they decided that each year they would put the angel on the Christmas tree in the recreation room of the apartment complex to remember my mother. The thought was so sweet that I burst into tears on the sidewalk.

Well, I opened their package this morning and first read the card. It says Mom's angel ornament has a special place near the top of the recreation room's tree. That was enough to start the tears. But then they explained that the present was a stuffed gingerbread man that the wife made by hand and that the material used to make the gingerbread man's scarf and sack came from my mother's blanket -- another item selected by the wife after Mom's passing. My eyes were flooded with tears as I opened this precious gift and saw the familiar green and white striped blanket.

It was an incredibly durable wool blanket that we had since I was a kid. It is the one and only blanket I specifically remember because of the stripes. And when my ill mother was going through repeated, alternating periods of high fevers and chills in April and May of this year, she asked me to dig that blanket out of the closet. Even though she was piled high with sheets, blankets, and comforters, she was convinced that ultra-warm wool blanket would stop the extreme and intense chills.

Without knowing the significance of that particular wool blanket, how totally lovely and appropriate that a "stranger" picked that material to make me something so special for this first Christmas. I can't wait to tell her how much warmth has been provided by her thoughtfulness and those familiar green and white stripes.

-written by Cathy Richards-

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