The Unexpected Gift

by: Joanne Meehl

In 2004, my mother wrote a touching note in her Christmas card to my husband and myself, and dated it, but as was her style, never got around to sending it. She died this past April and going through our mother's things, my sister just found the card, so she included it among other papers she sent me in her Christmas box of goodies, which arrived a couple of days before Christmas.

Seeing my mother's handwriting was something I did not expect to see again, other than on old legal papers and similar. But a note to us? A note she wrote in a Christmas card almost 10 years ago, that we never saw, and my sister only just found? It was too much of a coincidence, happening at this first Christmas without her.

In the late summer/early fall of 2004, two nasty hurricanes hit the Atlantic side of Florida's central coast, where my mother lived. The first knocked out power in her entire area, so for almost 10 days there was no air conditioning and like everyone else, she lost all her food, and tap water wasn't to be trusted because of flooding. Stores were closed, gas pumps weren't working, communications were broken and the Red Cross was driving through the over-55 parks like hers, visiting elderly and giving them food and bottled water. Just about as soon as the area regained power, another hurricane came along and repeated the whole scene. I remember feeling helpless in Boston, where I lived at the time.

But I had the web. So I was able to call her to tell her about places near her where ice, water, and food stations were being set up each day. She'd then rush off the phone so she and her friends could race to those sites for help.

The stresses of the two storms, and the repeated lack of A/C and water, caused her to become dehydrated which led to confusion and disorientation, landing her in the hospital. As soon as she was stable, my sister flew down and brought Mom north, where she stayed with my husband and myself for almost two weeks. It was a time when she could heal and not worry about storms or heat or where to find ice. She was grateful but she was no longer used to the fall chill, and went back, where there were no more bad storms that season, thank goodness.

She signed the card just weeks later. It had a nice pre-printed verse about enjoying Christmas. Then she wrote:?Christmas 2004 - How do I say thank you for all your kindnesses to me? God love you both, Love, Mom

Then she must have gone on to something else, a habit we always teased her about.

Having that card now, at Christmas 2013, was as if time had been suspended in some way. Sure, all our lives went on after she returned to Florida in the fall of 2004. Her health began to fail, she moved in with my sister, I moved to Minnesota, she moved into a nursing home, her health got worse, and the day before Easter this year, this person who extended kindnesses to so many herself lost her battle. This Christmas I just didn't have the energy to make the butter walnut cookies she loved, and which I sent her each year. This year, there was no Christmas morning phone call with me asking her if she still enjoyed them. Getting the card, as if it had been lost in the mail all these years, was a joy.

Seeing these words she intended us to see years ago, in this first year without her? Ah, now that is a gift.

Thanks so much, Mom.


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