I have been on a mission to clean out and pare down all around our home this summer- I always function better without the static that clutter brings. After several trips to Goodwill, I am down to going through the drawers of my old oak secretary. It is always such a trip down memory lane when I do this, as certain things I come across will affect me like an electrical spark, bringing back wave after wave of memories.
When I picked up the small tin with the Sleepy Time Tea bear on it, it took a moment before it dawned on me it was…and then my heart caught. In the days before Mom died, she began almost frantically giving me instructions about where special or important things were, and what was supposed to go to whom. She kept telling me about this tin, and that it was important because of the silver teddy bear inside. I finally found it in the old chest of drawers a few days before Mom passed. I carefully opened the box and discovered another stash of Mom’s treasures. She loved to squirrel special trinkets and things away in little containers, hiding them in the chest, and taking them out to study them periodically.
I found the bear that she had been worried about, along with an odd assortment of doodads. Her face broke out in relief when I brought it to her. She didn’t have any money, but her little treasures, the things that caught her eye that she collected over the years, were precious to her.
As Mom wound down, she gave me more and more instructions about where things were and to whom they were supposed to go. It was all she had to leave to people, and it was so important to her for her family and friends to know that she loved them and was thinking of them in the end. Once she trusted I knew what to do, she calmed down, but would still remember something and send me scurrying to the Home for Wayward Seniors in search of it. I think of how hard it had to have been for her to leave her apartment in an ambulance and never come back, never get to say goodbye to her memory-filled things or her sweet friends. I can only imagine the feelings of loss and the fear of suddenly being completely out of control of your fate.
I smiled as I sorted through the tin, thinking about what Mom saw in each of the pieces. Things like this were her hobby as she aged. When she could still drive, she loved going to garage sales and flea markets to search for special things, especially loving the grab bags of jewelry. She had a dream that she would find that one big treasure that would solve all of her financial woes. She would take her finds home and sort through the chaos of the contents, excitedly calling out, “Neese- I found real gold!” In later years, she would sit in her lift chair with an old pie pan full of jewelry pieces, old buttons, and marbles, carefully examining each piece with her magnifying glass for hours. The morning of her final fall, I found her on the floor, hundreds of buttons and doodads scattered everywhere around her.
From these memories, I see how the simple things are often truly the best. In a world where we seem to always want the newest, fanciest thing, maybe sometimes we can step back and find the beauty in the more humble, find more of a balance. My heart warms when I think of my mother and her generosity and kindness- she had so little, but was always thinking of others and what she could do for them- even up until the last hours of her long life. That is a legacy that I will do my best to share.