Saying Good-bye to a Dress

Nothing about the estate sale was easy, but it was essential. Mom had slipped into the presence of Jesus a few weeks earlier. She was 97 and had left a house full of furniture, clothing, dishes, and massive amounts of other miscellaneous items. Many of the objects really weren’t things that would evoke much emotion, but some had the potential to tear your heart out.

Were we wise to sell her clothing? Maybe, maybe not. We offered great deals. Day One–pants and shirts 50 cents apiece; Day Two–half price. Mom had always had a heart for the poor and our clientele were 95% Hispanic working poor. She would have been pleased to see so many people leave with great bargains.

However, when the red shoes which she wore so often walked away, it was like a part of Mom walking away with them. Several of us experience lumps in our throats as we watch them leave.

The most difficult for me was saying good-bye to a dress. There was a story behind it. My parents had gone through a rough patch in their marriage and had divorced when I was in my late twenties. Two years later, when they planned to remarry I made Mom a wedding dress. It was not made with miles of lace and sequins, but rather a simple long dress made of pink brocade fabric and trimmed with silver lace.

For forty-two years, that dress had either hung in her closet or been kept in a drawer. I had seen her wear that dress when she and Dad were married. I had tremendous emotional attachment to the dress. It was my choice to either put the dress out with the other clothing or take it home, put it in a drawer, and let my kids decide what to do with it after my death.

Mom and Dad on second wedding day

The dress was pretty and I felt maybe we could bless another person with a lovely outfit for a special occasion. It would not be put with the 50 cent pile of clothing. I put a ten dollar tag on it, feeling I would be absolutely fine if it didn’t sell at all. The difficult choice would be made for me.

Day One and no one seemed to give the dress a second glance. That was all right with me.

Day Two is coming to an end and still the dress is hanging where we had placed it on Day One. Then I see a lady pull it down and take a long look. The lump in my throat returns big time. She is a Hispanic lady and she has her husband and two little girls with her. One is probably six or seven years old and the other is younger. The lady struggles with English, but the husband and the older girl understand well.

She comes and lays the dress on the table along with her other purchases and asks, “How much?”

I hesitate as I try to swallow that massive lump in my throat. God gives grace and I reply, “Today is half-price. I will give it to you for five dollars.”

Her husband looks at the waistline of the dress and then at the waistline of his wife and says, “Too small.” She understands and decides to leave the dress behind.

My emotions are in turmoil. I don’t know whether to be happy or sad.

The family takes their other purchases and get back into their car. A moment later the older girl comes back with a five-dollar bill in her hand and says, “We want to take the dress.”

I take her money and hand the dress to her. Sadly, I cannot keep the tears from pouring down my cheeks as she walks away with the dress in her arms.

I feel my daughter’s gentle tug, “Mom, turn around so they don’t see you crying.”

Too late! They have already seen what I could not hide. The entire family has come out of the car and I hear this precious little girl ask, “Are you sad because we bought your Mama’s dress?”

“No, it’s OK. We want you to have it.”

My daughter tries to explain, “This dress has very special meaning. It’s kind of complicated, but her mama and daddy got married two times. She made this dress for her mama and it was her mama’s wedding dress.”

This sweet little girl wraps her arms around me and gives me the longest hug I have had in ages. Then she says, “My mama wants to make dresses for me and my sister to wear to church.”

“Oh, that would make my mama so happy because she loved Jesus very much!”

She smiles and exclaims, “I love Jesus, too!” and I reply, “So do I!”

While I am still an emotional mess, I am comforted by the caring concern of this family of strangers. I am genuinely happy they took the dress. It was meant to be.

I’m not sure if the extended hug and the expressions of love were a gift from God or a smile from Mom. I like to think they were both.

(Photo is of Mom and Dad, April 2, 1973 – the day they married the second time.)