Losing Mom, the last of her generation, leaves me feeling responsible as the Keeper of the Memories, memories that have been stored in cardboard boxes and manila envelopes and dusty file cabinets and in the back of closets. I am going through this as a journey through memories of love and sorrow, regret and gifts. Yes, gifts.
I found a letter I wrote to my mother forty years ago. I don’t remember writing it, but it is mailed in a Yale University Section of Neurosurgery envelope and appears to have been sent instead of a traditional Christmas card. It includes a poem that is copied from an unidentified medical journal, written by a doctor identified only as David to his mother on the occasion of her birthday. I told my mother that it spoke clearly from my heart about what gifts she had given me. Here’s the poem:
What gift can I give you
On this birthday? You have
Pain in your shoulder. In
Darker moments you have
Sighed and said
Two-thirds of my life are over.
Your children are scattered
Your womb gone. Nature’s trick
So strong in you to gather
And protect, nurture and
Help us bloom like flowers
Yet now, in your Indian Summer
We seem to turn from yellow dandelions
To white, evanescent hairs
Emanating from a seed
Where has your love, your tears
That caring water gone?
Swallowed by a hungry
Seemingly ungrateful earth
The sunlight of your warmth
May seem at times reflected back
And yet, did you know
That when I put my hand
On a crying child’s head
It is you whispering softly
Rocking him close to my chest
That love that I feel for a wide
Eyed baby that I never saw before
That is your love for me
That I can take anywhere, and
Give anytime so filled am I
With this love. I am so grateful
If you take this, my thanks
For your birthday gift
I hope that it will give you
Some peace. It has for me.
I’m glad I told Mom what David told his mother: Her care for me turned into my care for someone else, actually lots of other someones.
Recently I watch a documentary about the life of Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. At a college address near the end of his life he said, “You smile because someone once smiled at you; you love because someone first loved you.”
Fred and David had both discovered this important truth. Love is never wasted. Hate fails, anger fails, pleasure fails. But love is never wasted. It beats off the chaos and the darkness, it plants seeds that grow into the greatest of shrubs, it gives hope to the hopeless, and gives to the warrior and caregiver alike, courage.
The letter and poem remind me that my bigger responsibility is not as Keeper of the Memories, but as Giver of the Love. So thank you, Fred Rogers, and thank you, Doctor David wherever you are.
And thanks, Mom.
7 thoughts on “Memories and Gifts”
Grandma Lohse was truly an amazing human being, who cared so much about people from all walks of life like me. God gave her a gift of loving and caring about people regardless of who they were and where they came from. As a person, who immigrated to the United States of America from the Sudan through Kenya, Grandma Lohse welcomed me and others to this country with opened arms. That is, she was one of the American people who made this country a very welcoming place for me. I did well academically in college and in graduate school, because Grandma was one of the people , who would take time to write me notes to say that she loved and cared about me. I LOVE the United States of America unconditionally because Grandma Lose’s love and care for me engendered a sense patriotism in me.
Grandma instilled a lot of wisdom in me, because I benefited greatly from listening to her.
Therefore, although I was a refugee, I am forever thankful to God Almighty for always connecting me with humane, caring, and God-loving people like Grandma Lohse. Grandma Lohse kept me sane by erasing some of the psychological scars I had growing up in the war zones of East Africa.
Dr. Lohse, your mother was a mother to all, because of her humanity and her love for God.
Love this and it rings so true.
I hate I didn’t know your Mom better. She was obviously a wonderful person.
So touching – and so easy to relate to… cannot thank you enough for sharing from your heart to my heart…..
My mother left this world one month ago. In reading your post, I remember her love, which was a reflection of God’s love. Paul the Apostle wrote, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails (NIV).”
Through her example, I know about God’s love and grace. I love you, Mom.
Really good, James. Thanks for sharing.
As always, your post touched my heart.
Thank you and please keep writing. When I have had difficult days, a post comes from you and it helps me put my problems in perspective.
Shalom my wise friend and brother in Christ.
Thanks, Penny. Blessings and peace to you.