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.)






The Blessings of a Godly Mother

Her children arise up and call her blessed. Proverbs 31:28

IMG_2949Today is the 97th birthday of my awesome mom and how blessed we are to still have her with us. What an incredible and godly example she has been to all of us.

Mom was the 13th baby in a family of 15 children and is the only one still living. She was raised in a home rich in love and laughter, but extremely poor in material wealth. As far as I know there is only one photo of my mother as a child. That picture is a school class photo and her face in the picture is about one-half inch high. With such a large family and extreme poverty, there was no camera and no money for non-essentials like photos.

Her clothing was either of the hand-me-down variety or dresses made from flour sacks. Being the ninth daughter in the family left very little possibility of ever having new store-bought clothing.  Her mother was a good seamstress and always altered the hand-me-downs to make sure they fit well. One year, Mom was certain she had out grown every available coat and hoped desperately that this would be the year she would get a new coat. That hope was dashed when a kind lady offered her daughter’s outgrown coat, and it fit.  Mom found it difficult to be thankful for that gift!

She got one new pair of shoes at the beginning of the school year and they had to last the entire year. Summers, they went barefoot. Unfortunately, kids’ feet don’t always stay the same size for an entire year. She wore out and outgrew her shoes in the 8th grade, and there was no money for another pair. Her “make-do” dad cut the tops off of a pair of old-fashioned button-hook, high-top shoes. Mom wore those embarrassingly ugly shoes to school the rest of the year.

Her mother ran a cook-house for an orchardist during apple harvests. Mom and her sisters helped to prepare food, set tables, serve the workers, and wash the dishes. It was there she met the love of her life, our dad. He was a young, hard-working man who took a fancy to her and soon he had won her heart. They were married in January of 1935 when she was just 16. She wore a new store-bought dress that the hard-working young man had purchased for her.

Two sons and two daughters were added to the family and she was a wonderful parent to all of us. She loved and accepted us unconditionally and always put our needs above her own. She was a strong lady who made us behave and treat others with respect, but she was also fun and played games with us. She still has her sense of humor and loves a good joke. She taught us to laugh at ourselves and not to make fun of others.

At the age of 24, she committed her life to Christ and determined to bring her children up in the love of the Lord. I can never remember a time that I didn’t love Jesus and want to serve Him: I know the Holy Spirit used the love and compassion of Jesus, demonstrated so clearly in Mom’s life, to draw me to Himself.

She taught Sunday School for years. One morning a couple of rambunctious boys kept crawling under the table—being ornery and causing distractions. They didn’t realize who they were dealing with. She took the entire class under the table, and that’s where they spent the rest of the hour. At the end of the class, they decided it was not fun to have their class under the table and it never happened again.

Mom was a gracious hostess who loved to have company and it didn’t matter if the house was a mess—it was comfortable and lived in! Company was and is warmly welcomed and she makes sure they are well fed.  At 97, she still loves company and is always happy to see friends and family.

The past year has been difficult for her. A fall in November caused her a lot of pain and left her needing a wheelchair. Her body is tired and she sleeps a lot. She has told me she is ready to go and be with “George and Jesus”. As we see her failing health, we grow more appreciative of the time we still have with her. She cared for us so well and now it is our turn to care for her.

Last week two of my siblings and I got together to celebrate her 97th birthday. We celebrated early to include my Alaskan brother. As usual, she was happy to see us and when she was awake, she was willing and eager to play some pinochle. Yes, she still likes to play and is a fearless bidder. (Family members know that is an understatement!)

Today, she will celebrate with my daughter who takes remarkable care of her and with another granddaughter who has driven up from Oregon. I would love to personally give her birthday greetings today, but I know her hearing loss prevents communication by telephone. I will trust my daughter to give her a birthday hug and a kiss from me. Next weekend I will deliver that hug and kiss in person.

I feel tremendously blessed to have this wonderful lady as my mother and to still have her with us at the age of 97. She has been and is a loving, caring, and compassionate mother and grandmother to our family. I will forever thank God for the incredible gift of a mother, who gave us a happy, secure childhood and who taught us the love of Jesus!

Happy 97th Birthday, Mom! I love and appreciate you more than my words can ever express.

(The photo above was taken during the late 50’s when Mom was in her thirties, and was published in the Brewster Herald with a copy of her fudge recipe.)