Posted by: CeCe | August 28, 2013

Holding on to the last

In a little over an hour from the time I’m beginning to type these words, it will officially be my mom’s birthday.  She would have been 75 this year.  I’ve been thinking a lot about her lately, and how it’s so interesting that at this point, my grief isn’t nearly as raw as it was when she first passed away over four years ago.  It still hurts, but not like it did.  I’ve also been thinking about an encounter I had a few years ago when I was working retail, which is related to my thoughts tonight.

What happened was, a customer came in on a Sunday afternoon when it was fairly slow, so I was able to concentrate on her alone.  We got to chatting, and she told me that she was hoping to use a gift card her mom had given her for her birthday, and that her mom had passed away a few months before.  I had just lost my own mom a little over a year before that, which I related to her, and so we began bonding over this horrible experience.  Eventually, she had picked out a few items, and as I was ringing her in, she asked me if she could make a strange request.  I said of course she could, and she asked me if she could hold on to the gift card.

This is something I understood very well, as I’ll relate soon, and so of course I said yes.  I brought her bag around to her once I was done, and gave her the gift card back.  She put it back in its envelope, caressed it, and put it back in her purse.  I could see that she was on the verge of tears, and to be honest, so was I.  We wound up chatting after that for close to 45 minutes, sharing stories of our moms, and bonding over our common sorrow.  As we continued sharing, I realized that we were both crying openly, but they weren’t tears of pain, they were tears of release.  I felt as though a weight was being lifted off my shoulders.

Before she left, she asked if she could give me a hug, and I said of course.  We hugged for a long time, still crying, and after a couple minutes, we released each other.  She thanked me profusely, and vowed to come back and ask for me especially.  I quit not long after that, so I never saw her again, but I think of her often, and I hope that she’s managing.

When she asked me if she could keep the gift card, it got me thinking about a gift my own mother had given me not long before she died.  Like me, my mom had issues getting things in the mail, so I didn’t get my birthday presents until nearly 6 months after my birthday.  Just thinking about it makes me laugh, I’m so much like her.  One of the items amongst the presents was a bottle of perfume with a citrus scent.  Although I like it, I rarely use it, because if I use it all, I’ll have to throw the bottle away, and I don’t want to have to do that.  Why?  Because my mom will never be able to give me another.

I find myself thinking about all the “lasts” with her: The last hug, the last kiss, the last “I love you”, the last phone conversation, the last movie we ever watched together (Nanny McPhee), the last Mariners game we watched together (they lost against the Orioles, 7-1), the last song we ever listened to together (“Praise You in the Storm”, by Casting Crowns)… but these are just memories, they’re nothing concrete.  When I hold that bottle of perfume in my hand, it’s like I’m holding all those memories in one place that I can touch.  The memories are bittersweet, but I’m so glad I have them.

So… I understand why the customer wanted to hold on to the gift card, just like I hold on to the bottle of perfume.  We’re both holding on to the last.  Someday I’ll be able to let it go… but not yet.



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