Today I joined the throngs of holiday shoppers at the mall, but I had a very different purpose than most. This time of year, I would typically be happily selecting Christmas presents for friends and loved ones, but not today. Today I was buying the last outfit that my beloved mom will ever wear. She lost her battle with cancer on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and passed peacefully in her sleep. My world was rocked and will never be the same. Mom lost so much weight during her illness, that none of her pretty clothes fit anymore. She never used to shop for clothing without me tagging along to give her “expert” advice, so it seemed entirely appropriate for me to volunteer to find her the perfect burial outfit.
I set out with the best of intentions, thinking that I’d be perfectly fine…thinking that a little retail therapy might do me some good, particularly since I’d scarcely left the house in the past few days since she died, and I couldn’t have been more wrong. Lovely carols played over every loudspeaker in the mall, reminding me of the last time that I visited with her, and she sang along, in her breathy, angelic voice, to the carols that were playing in the Christmas movies that we watched. I saw happy moms and daughters shopping together. I saw dozens of outfits that she would’ve loved – warm sweaters with smiling snowmen on them, fuzzy socks…the pain took my breath away.
It was so hard to hold back the tears, that I literally walked around muttering to myself, which I didn’t even realize, until a woman looked at me funny when I whispered to myself, “maybe I should try the Petite section. Mom was petite.” There were various times when I just stood still, rooted to the floor, staring at nothing, overcome with wonderful memories. When I lost Mom, I didn’t just lose a parent, I lost one of my very dearest friends, someone who always loved me, always believed in me.
Christmas was her favorite time of year. For as long as I can remember, our house was always filled with laughter, love, gifts and music during this time of year. Her generosity knew no bounds, and she always went out of her way to make the holidays special.
I look at the legacy that she left behind, having lived a lifetime of loving and taking care of others, and I can’t help but wonder how I’ll ever even come close to measuring up. Those elegant shoes will be tough to fill…
I know that from now on, when I see Christmas lights, I’ll remember the beauty of her loving smile, and the way that her sense of humor filled us with delight. When I hear the carols, I’ll hear her voice singing along, (even when her breathing was weak, her spirit was strong), and when I taste the pepperoni and pineapple pizza (it was her favorite), I’ll remember the woman who loved me unconditionally…and had a huge part in making me who I am today.
She was strong, she was opinionated, when she was passionate about something, she could be as stubborn as a mule, and I love her profoundly. My heart hasn’t stopped aching for the quirky New Englander whose family and friends meant the world to her. The outfit that I bought, in her favorite color, will be the last Christmas gift that I ever buy for my sweet mom…the woman whose entire life was a gift to me, and to everyone who knew her.