ME AND MOTHER’S BOXES By Lori A Alicea

It was just a small question I needed answers to, although I hadn’t a clue how God would reply.

Was I searching for a “needle in a haystack?”
Did I even know what I was looking for?

I kept my question secret between God and me.

The diary of my longings under “lock and key” and for His eyes only, as He alone understood more than any the personal matters of the heart.

Using mother’s spare key, I entered her house that spring morning without my usual knocking or calling out her name. I didn’t come toting a cup of coffee to join her for breakfast as I usually did.

In the early hours, a light show burst thru the living room windows, warming me and bidding me “good morning”.

Yet while this sunshine tried its best to cheer me up, I couldn’t push past that seared memory of mother taken away days prior by ambulance, forcing a family to reconcile their mother wasn’t ever coming home; at least not to this address.

Clumsily under both arms I clutched boxes, both big and small, with a van parked in the driveway full to the roof of more boxes, scads of bubble wrap, shipping tape and sheets of wrapping paper by the hundreds.

Living one street over, my hands were empty, not carrying those homemade meals prepared and delivered to mother’s kitchen table I had been known to do these last few years.

No, this visit was a first for me, a hard reality. I showed up unannounced on mother’s vacant doorstep to pack, to take and empty from her shelves, drawers, closets and cupboards, and place into boxes the wrapped treasures and belongings of mother’s home now headed for storage.

As siblings we shared in the great responsibilities of mother’s care.

As a stay-at-home-wife I took on the task of closing up this haven we as children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, extended friends and family all called home.

Packing during this difficult time was a gift.

Packing was my quiet way of saying good-by, to reminisce and remember home for the last time in “my way”, comforted in the company of mother’s things, even if this farewell was a first farewell of many yet to come.

Overwhelmed before the first box was ever filled, I paused in silence and reached for mother’s Bible found in its usual place beside her chair. Opening the pages at random I read:

The Lord our God is near whenever we pray to him.
Deuteronomy 4:7 NIV
grandma in chair
Yes, the Lord is near, especially near to the brokenhearted.
He was as close as I allowed Him to be,
Ready to listen; ready to answer.

Surrounded by the memories of mom, that question surfaced again, a question impatiently waiting its turn to be asked.

We all have questions, don’t we?

Questions tied to our past; questions that need to step forward and be heard.

But you have to be bold, find your inner strength, muster the courage and blurt out the question.

“Lord, is there anything in this house you want me to have?”

It wasn’t a question of inheritance.
I wasn’t interested in things or earthly treasures.

What I was interested in though was God’s heart filling in a few blanks of my heart, Him finishing a few sentences from the script of my life I had no idea might be incomplete.

I had no clue how God would reply.

I was searching for a “needle in a haystack”; an answer that could possibly be found among mother’s things.

What I was looking for?
I honestly had no idea.

As the middle child of five girls with an older brother, there were no lingering questions of love and acceptance. Yes, together we were a big family and we had to find and sometimes fight for our individual voice and place.  We didn’t grow up with riches, but we were rich in ways money could never afford.  Any loose ends from the fray of my memory have been tied in a bow, leaving only good thoughts under the cloak of my childhood.

Maybe what I wanted though but didn’t realize growing up, was God needing to complete the sentence relationship of mother and me with not a “period”, but possibly a heart emoji, a kiss of the heart, or a gift of affection.
25th anniversary me mom and davidA gift I wanted to believe could be found hidden among mother’s boxes.

The week long packing began.

Room after room my silent farewells to mother and who she was in this home.

Mother was the heart of our holidays and her kitchen.

Mother was one of a table full of honored pillars seated at the royal place we named the “senior table.”

Family to mom was remembering there was always room for one more person.

Mother’s fervent prayers, throughout the day and midnight hour, kept our family together.

Mother’s things and treasures filled a total of sixty-five boxes. I held the accumulation of mother’s life in my hands piece by piece and released them each with a personal good-bye to the bottom of another box.

Now these boxes would find a new home in storage until mother was able to let them go herself; boxes hiding a piece of our mother’s heart in these closed and stored chapters of her life.

All of mother’s rooms; in all of mother’s belongings and I never found that “needle in the haystack”; what didn’t I see among mother’s boxes, what did I miss?

That “knowing” in me kept pressing and pulling those heartstrings of mine as a prompting to keep looking, keep asking the questions.

Two years later with mother’s blessing, her sixty-five boxes found their way out of storage and into my house to be emptied, contents individually pictured and itemized on a spreadsheet for these belongings to be chosen and disbursed to family.
boxes of moms stuffHere we go again; the hello’s and good-byes of mother’s things.

Once again I pray,

“Lord, is there anything in these boxes you want me to have?”

Two years hadn’t faded my memory of mother’s boxes.
Like old friends I knew them well, by name, by history.

“Lord, is there anything?”

 One by one, box after box, finding their way to the front of the line to be emptied.

Bittersweet as the last remaining chapter of mother’s life in box sixty-five is about to become a new book on somebody else’s shelf.

 “Lord, open my eyes to see.”
 “Is there anything here for me?”

 Held in my hands was the last remaining treasure among mother’s boxes.

An old jewelry box filled with mother’s mismatched pieces of costume necklaces, earrings, rings and broaches, jewelry I remember mother wearing vividly when I was growing up. A jewelry box displayed on her bedroom dresser, a familiar piece I cleaned for decades as mother’s housekeeper.  I knew it well.

The hidden finds inside this jewelry box rewind the 8mm collections of me as a child playing dress up with mother’s baubles and beads.

For the final time I prayed,

“Lord, is there anything here you want me to have?”
 “If so, open my eyes to see.”

 I sigh…I take a breath…There it was.

Like an old photograph buried in the dust of time prompting a double-take and closer view, I stopped in the moment to remember.

Held in my hands a gift from God, bewildered I hadn’t noticed it during my years as mother’s housekeeper, even more bewildered this gift was in plain sight during the packing.

A sweet sixteen present from her mother and father,
A birthday celebration for my mother,
A beautiful watch with the inscription and sentiment I had never read before,

“To Our Loving Daughter”.

Beholding this gift up close I knew without question,
God didn’t want to give me treasures,
God wanted to give me words,
God longed to breathe these words of affirmation upon my life,

“To Our Loving Daughter.”

Most endearing of all was the phrase,

 “To Our”.

Our, received as two people, my mother and father; my heavenly Father.

To be loved, to be known and referred as daughter.
To celebrate her life.
Lori little Birthday cakeAfter talking with mother about the watch I discovered and its significance in her life, she expressed a desire to share its sentiment and pass this gift onto me.

“Lord, I am forever grateful you knew what I needed even while I was unaware.”

“You completed this “mother-daughter” sentence with a heart emoji, a kiss of the heart, a gift of affection, an inscription and sentiment, a love letter simply written for which I cherish more than you know,”

“To Our Loving Daughter”.
25th anniversary me mom and david