Guest Post Last weekend Ron and I visited my father in St. George for LDS General Conference. This was our first visit since my mother's funeral about 10 weeks ago. She died of cancer of the bone marrow on January 15 of this year. I was somewhat uneasy as we neared St. George because I really didn't know what emotions would surface. I am happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised.
Some things were very different. My mother would always call us about three hours into the trip and say "Where are You?" That call, of course, was missing this time. Also, the last time we were there, the 1200 square foot condo was full of people preparing their assignments for her funeral. My brothers were practicing musical numbers as were my sister and I. This trip, my dad's sweaty old San Francisco 49ers baseball cap laid quietly on top of the piano keyboard, leaving me to think that the piano had not been used since then. When Ron and I arrived, the house was quiet. While Mom was alive, the TV was always on very loud because she couldn't hear well. We sat down and Daddy turned on the 10:00 news. I laughed as he fumbled with the TV remotes to their new HDTV, saying they were worse to operate than the control boards of a B-747! I am the same way. Mom was always better at this sort of thing. When the news came on, we realized that we had missed a Jazz game where they played Jimmer's team, the Sacramento Kings, and lost by one point. I looked at Daddy, and said in all seriousness, "You would NEVER have missed that game if Mom was still here!"
But some things were the same. The refrigerator was full of 8oz. Cokes. They were the perfect size for Mother. When she was here, they had them timed in the freezer for 37 minutes... just the right time to make them slushy. Now Daddy just puts them in a cup full of ice. Although there were not many people there, the treat counter was full of almonds, trail mix, mini Snicker bars, honey roasted peanuts, Tootsie Rolls, Fritos, and Chex Mix, as my father said to me in a woeful tone... "I have gained 10 pounds!"
I smiled as I entered the small guest bedroom where I found on the couch at least $50 worth of new yarn Daddy had purchased to make hats for the humanitarian group in his neighborhood. Beside the yarn were several circular looms used to create hats of different sized for those in need. Daddy uses two colors just like Mom taught him to and he has two Tupperware pitchers (on gallon size) where he keeps the yarn so it doesn't tangle while he works. I asked Daddy where he purchased the yarn and almost laughed out loud when he answered, "I avoid Walmart because the colors aren't as nice, so I pay more and go to JoAnn's." On the fridge there were several sticky notes taped on top of another with numbers on them. Daddy smiled proudly as he told me... "I have reached a milestone... 1003 hats, and that is just since I have been keeping track!" I was amazed.
Mom's clothes were gone so the walk in closet in their bedroom looked empty. Dad has four pair of walking shoes, two pair of dress shoes and assorted sweat pants and T Shirts. He has never been much for fancy clothes; he owns enough to look presentable on Sunday at church... that is all. They used to doze off and on through General Conference (don't we all?) and it was comforting to hear him snore from time to time. Mother's chair sat empty all the while we were there. The last years of her life were spent in that chair. To me, it seemed to be an unspoken reality that it is still hallowed ground... at least for now. Daddy has also mastered the art of keeping the bills paid and sending cards with $5 bills in them to each grandchild and great grandchild on their birthdays. Both of these skills were taught to him by my mother.
In "Tuesdays with Morrie", there is a wonderful quote where Morrie states: "As long as we can love each other and remember the feeling of love we had, we can die without ever really going away. All the love you created is still there. All the memories are still there. You live on in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here... Death ends a life, not a relationship."
I was pleased to feel in my parents' home, a peace that was almost tangible. I brushed a few tears away as Daddy told me, "Sometimes when I doze off, I awaken and feel that Mother has been here just for a brief moment. This home is an endeared and treasured place because she is near."
I am happy to report that on Saturday, we watched the Jazz game as well as the NCAA semifinals. Mom would have been proud even though the Clippers won. As Ron and I left for home, I felt wonderfully peaceful inside about Daddy. He is happy, contented and functioning well. He complete hat #1004 during the last session on Conference and I'm sure #1005 will be completed in no time. Mom's chair will be waiting for me when I visit again... and who knos? I may even sit in it then.