“They were two women alone in a big old farm house. It held long memories for both. As they reached the front door, the daughter, stout comfortable woman so deep in her middle age, her face bore no resentment of it, turned to the other.”
“I know it’s hard for you Mama”, she said. “Jim and I just couldn’t stand the thoughts of you living any longer in this old house all by yourself.”
“We’d never be able to forgive ourselves if anything bad were to happen to you. You could fall down the stairs, or turn over a lamp, or do a hundred things that would bring you grief. You’ll be happier with us – truly you will. Jim loves you just like he does his own Mother”.
The white-haired old lady managed a smile. She reached out a frail, blue veined hand and patted her daughter comfortingly.
“I realize that it’s for the best, Evelyn”, she said. “Why don’t you go out and join Jim in the car? I’d like to take just one more last look around. I want to be sure that everything is in its place”.
The daughter sighed and said, “All right Mama, I understand but don’t be too long. It’s cold outside and we have a long way to drive before midnight”.
A hint of dusk darkened the chilly air outdoors, but the old lady made no move to switch on the lights. The feeling of gathering twilight suited her mood best. She stood still for just one moment and her heart began to flood with memories.
The old lady wanted to go one by one through each room, but she felt it would be unfair to keep her daughter and son-in-law waiting. There were three rooms she first had to say farewell to. She paused briefly in the huge, high ceiling living room. Here the family had been warmed by hundreds of long winter evening fires. Each week, on a Friday night, they would roast popcorn in the open fire as a family treat. The two rocking chairs sat empty, where she and her husband would always be during the last hour before retiring.
Then she went out to the kitchen. The old black wood burning stove was there. She had learned to cook on it as a bride some 60 years before. The wash tubs sat in the corner on the floor, the ones she used to bathe the children in.
Still dry-eyed, she rested a moment with one hand on an old worn walnut staircase before mounting to her bedroom. She approached the door with awe and reverence. She stood silently by the great brightly gleaming old brass bedstead, the center of her life. Here all of her six children had been delivered. Here, her first born son, his eyes wide in wonder, had been strangled by diphtheria. Here, she responded to her husband’s last request and brought him a cool drink of water. Here, he had died holding her hand tightly.
The remembering tears came then to the old lady’s eyes. His last words were, “Always remember how much I love you”. She bent and patted pillows. Then suddenly, she knelt and kissed the bedspread.
“Goodbye”, she whispered.
Outside, Jim honked on the horn, ever so lightly. “You know”, he said, “We were lucky to find a young couple willing to rent this old museum of your folks. “They are fond of antiques and love every piece except one”.
“Which one was that?” asked Evelyn.
“That old brass bedstead”, said Jim.
“What do you think they plan to do with it?”
“Junk it”, Jim said.
The old lady came to the door, carefully locked it and stood front and center of the wrap around porch. The setting sun caught a glimmer of a tear in her eye. She stood so erect; very much like a prisoner facing a firing squad. Then, without signal, she walked in strict cadence to the car.
“I’m ready at last”, she said.
“Hurry, Mom”, Jim said, “We have a long way to drive before midnight”.
So what is suffering? Who can define it, describe it, and understand it?
So it was when our Dad died. We seven children, all grown, sat on the front porch discussing Mother’s future. We plotted and planed and purchased a nice new house, with new furniture, all on one floor and later took her to it.
I shall never forget the last words my Mother said to me a few years later.
“Son, when do you think I’ll get to go home?”