A number of years ago I remember reading an article written by the noted columnist Hal Boyle. My mother sent it along thinking it might be of some interest to me and hopefully add wisdom to my days. Little did I know then that the words would become a living part of my life. Now, they are no more just words, paragraphs, printer’s ink. They, long since, have become precious memories to me about the past. Mother died 25 years ago, and one of the last things she said to me was, “Son, wonder when I’ll get to go home.” She was referring to the old homestead she knew for most of her life. Hal put it in a very wonderful way.
“There were two women alone in a big old home that held long memories for both. As they reached the front door, the daughter, a stout comfortable woman so deep in middle age her face bore no resentment of, turned to the other.”
“I know it’s hard for you to leave, Mama,” she said, “but Jim and I just couldn’t stand the thought of you living in this old house. We’d never be able to forgive ourselves if anything happened to you. You’ll be happier with us. Truly you will. Jim loves you as much as he did his own mother.”
The white-haired old lady smiled. She reached out a frail blue-veined hand and patted her daughter comfortingly. “I realize it’s for the best, Evelyn,” she said.
“Why don’t you go on and join Jim in the car? I’d like to take one more last look around just to be sure everything is right. That is such a nice young couple that’s moving in. I wouldn’t want them to find anything that is out of place.”
Her daughter sighed and said, “All right, Mama. I understand, but don’t be too long. We have a long way to drive before midnight.”
After she had left the old lady turned to say goodbye alone and in her own way to a home she had entered as a bride nearly 60 years before. A hint of dusk darkened the soft summer air outdoors, but the old lady made no move to switch on the lights. The feeling of gathering twilight suited her mood.
The old lady wanted to go through every room one by one, but she felt it would be unfair to keep her daughter and son-in-law waiting. But there were three rooms she had to say farewell to.
She paused briefly in the huge high ceiling living room where the family had been warmed by hundreds of long winter evening fires.
Then she went out to the kitchen where she had, as a bride learned to cook on a wood-burning stove, and later bathed the children in bath tubs on the floor. Still dry-eyed, she rested a moment with one hand on a worn walnut staircase before mounting to her bedroom. She stood silently by a great brightly gleaming old brass bedstead, the center of her life.
Here all six of her children had been delivered. Here her first born son, his eyes wide in wonder, had been strangled by diphtheria. Here she had brought her husband his last glass of water and he had died still holding her hand.
The remembering tears came into the old lady’s eyes. She bent and patted the pillows. Then she suddenly knelt and kissed the bedspread.
“Goodbye”, she whispered.
Outside Jim honked the horn – not too impatiently. “You know, we were lucky to find a young couple willing to rent this museum like your old home,” he told his wife. “But they are fond of antiques and they liked all of them except one.”
“Which one was that,” Evelyn asked. “Oh, it’s that old brass bedstead,” said Jim. “What do they plan t do with it, Jim?” “Just junk it, I guess, just junk it!”
The old lady came out the door, carefully locked it, then stood front and center on the old wrap-around porch. The falling sunset caught a glimmer of a tear in her eye. She stood there, strong and erect like a soldier facing a firing squad.
Without signal, she moved with strict cadence to the car. “I’m ready at last,” she said. Jim said softly, “Hurry Mama, we have a long way to drive before midnight.”
“Precious memories, how they linger, how they ever flood my soul. In the stillness of the midnight, precious sacred scenes unfold.” Surely she could say with Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (II Timothy 4:7-8).