By Lisa Pawlak
The only gift is a portion of thyself.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Mom wanted to go Christmas shopping. It was hard to understand why exactly -- she was so sick at this point, and if she would just give us a list, we could take care of this for her -- but no, she wanted to go Christmas shopping. One day when her pain seemed relatively under control, we put aside our "sensible" thoughts about whether Christmas shopping was an appropriate activity for someone terminally ill, and we decided to go.
Somehow, we managed to get her, the wheelchair, little Joshua, his stroller, and the rest of the gang packed into the minivan and we were off to the mall. We took the diaper bag for Joshua and a bag full of pain meds for Mom. It was December 23rd, and we felt full of mischief.
The mall was packed, obviously, and it was helpful that we had the handicapped parking permit, so that we didn't have to battle it out for parking. We took turns pushing Mom in her wheelchair and Joshua in his stroller. Most people were pretty decent about getting out of our way. Joshua smiled over at his grandma, wheeling along next to him. He actually sat in his stroller without complaint.
Soon after we arrived, after the initial giddiness of the outing wore off, it seemed as though Mom got a little overwhelmed. We started in a department store, but it was hard to wheel her through the racks of clothes and gift items. We tried to figure out what she wanted to look at, leaving her in the aisles while we brought things over to her.
Eventually she got a little upset. "I just want to go over and look at things, like everyone else." Once we understood this, we made greater efforts to wheel her through those tight spaces.
We went out into the main part of the mall and she finally told us what she was really looking for — little boxes. She wasn't looking for traditional gifts at all, and this caught me off guard. She was looking for little boxes in which she could display her most prized pieces of jewelry, to give them away to her loved ones on her final Christmas.
We found some little boxes at a watch store, and returned home soon after. Mom was exhausted from the outing.
On Christmas morning, Melissa, Mark's then fiancée, now wife, was the first to open her little box from Mom. It was one of Mom's favorites — a necklace with matching earrings, made of topaz. Melissa looked both stunned and deeply touched.
I knew what would be in my own little box, opened a bit later in the morning. It contained a marvelous diamond pendant on a spectacular gold omega chain. My dad had given Mom this piece on her 50th birthday, five years earlier. It was her most beloved piece of jewelry, and she had given it to me.
"Don't save it for special occasions," she told me. I couldn't answer. The lump in my throat made it impossible to speak.
Despite Mom's advice, most days the diamond pendant on its omega chain simply sits in its little box, tucked away in my armoire. When I do wear it, typically on special occasions, I feel as though I'm carrying around a little piece of her.
Just like Mom, it is beautiful and sparkling and never fails to attract admiration. But I am much too afraid of losing it, of losing this little piece of her, to wear it every day.