Thoughts for the Journey

​​A few weeks ago, I had the blessing of seeing and holding my new grandniece, Audrey Lillian, for the very first time. The only joy that was missing from that wonderful time with niece and grandniece was my mother’s presence, her delight in holding her namesake great-granddaughter in her beautiful hands and the incredible love that she offered every person through those strong, capable hands. Sitting down to write my thoughts for this month, I find it poignant that it is the ninth anniversary of my mother’s death. I am not sure if I am on the verge of tears or caught in amazement that it has been such a long (or short?) time of no phone calls, no lists of information, groceries or “to dos”, no perfect homemade spaghetti sauce, no trips to Aldi’s and, the hardest thing of all, no cards with her beautiful handwriting at the bottom saying, “Much love, Mom”. I cannot remember a time that I did not love to watch my mother’s hands. They kneaded bread and painted window trims. They sewed beautiful clothes and cleaned the basement steps. They completed countless crossword puzzles and embroidered linens. They played the piano for her daughter to sing and touched others as she focused her attention on the conversation. Her hands were large and beautiful. There are two memories of her hands that will never leave me: when she held newborn babies and when she held a pen.

Earlier I spoke of my sorrow at not seeing her hold her new great-granddaughter, Audrey Lillian. But today, I remember how she held a pen or pencil just as if it were just an extension of her arm. Having learned script old school style, the words flowed from pen or pencil into Christmas letters, notes for every occasion, phone lists for the organized help needed for church luncheon or dinner, items to remember on the chalk board near the basement door, and the ever-present crossword puzzle. Her checkbook was neat and precise. Her notes to school when we were sick used nursing language such as “febrile” or “streptococcus”. Those school notes were never questioned, easily read and ran straight across the paper! The millions of words that framed her life came through her heart, her education and her love for so many people.

One of my more precious memories over her last years was to sit with her to style her brief but info packed Christmas letters. I would type and tweak and then she would write a personal message on every single one. When we started this there were over 100 cards/letters that sailed across the world. Each touched by the hands and words of my mother’s heart. If you stopped in during the evening about four weeks before Christmas, she would be in the living room surrounded by cards, envelopes, letters and the T.V. remote. As one of her crime shows, game shows or old movies danced across the screen, my mother’s hands would dance across the pages personalizing the bottom of the letters with messages of care and connection. For nine years of Christmases, all hands were silent. And for that I am sorry. My mother taught us to write a quick note to ask after someone’s well-being or to thank them for their gift of time, talent or gift. For her, this was the true acknowledgement to the recipient that they were deeply appreciated. As she aged her hands aged as well. She wielded the phone as deftly as she wielded the pen. It may seem small to some but for me during the last weeks of her life here with us, those hands could still muster the strength to scrawl her signature. As our moments dwindled their strength was given to hold our hands until the warmth subsided, and she had reached out for God’s hand instead. You might think that broke my heart. Instead, it gave me strength to let go of those hands and reach forward to others. And broke my heart.

On the first anniversary of her death, my younger daughters surprised me with a necklace that held a simple disk of gold with, “Laurie, With love” engraved with her handwriting. They had one made for me, the three sisters, and the cousin that gave the world, Audrey Lillian. What made this extraordinary was that in all the millions of words my mother wrote, they could not find this specific sentiment on any of the papers available. She wrote that or “Much love, Mom”, on every card or letter. I have wondered often why it was so difficult that first anniversary. Maybe it was hard to find her love in writing because it lives boldly on our hearts and in our life actions.

I know this is a bit long but love letters should be. This is my love letter to Audrey Alice and Audrey Lillian. This is my love letter to all the women in your lives that write their love on your hearts. This is my love letter to God for the hands of love that have offered God’s true love to us. This is my love letter written for you.
                                                                                            Much love, Mom, from your thankful daughter,
                                                                                                                                               Laurie Beth


United Methodist Church

200 Turner Road, Middletown, RI 02842