The Christmas after dad died, I bought a small stuffed bear for mom. She loved toys. My sisters and I recognized that since mom had no toys of her own as a child – at least none that we knew about, mom would love to have some now. The little bear I bought was dressed in a red dress, sweater and bonnet. When I brought the bear to mom, a caregiver had already bought her one. The caregiver’s gift bear was dressed in blue overalls, much as a small boy would wear. When Christine saw the bears, which the caregiver and I had set together on a table top, she named them Frankie and Bertie. Christine then held the two bears together and pretended that they were kissing each other. Mom was not happy. She said that she didn’t want anyone kissing Frankie.
Three years later when mom died, we placed Frankie bear in the casket with mom along with dad’s service flag, a rosary and a cross on a chain. We also placed the love letters which mom and dad had shared so many years ago under her feet. Christine had suggested that the letters go with mom, as both mom and dad were very protective of those letters. We never read them, except for two, which we had given mom after dad died, so that she could remember the love which they once had shared.
I took the original Ms Bertie home with me. Ms Bertie rides around in my car with me, a daily reminder of the lovely lady who had been such a big part of my life. I decided one day to try to paint a picture of the bear. I painted three different paintings, but there was only one that I liked. I framed that one and gave it to Christine, who was still struggling with the loss of both mom and dad.
When Christine passed away, I wanted the painting of Ms Bertie that I had given to Christine. I decided that Keith needed to have Christine’s things around him, so I never asked for it. Instead I painted another one. This week I put a frame on the new Ms Bertie and hung it above my desk. The original painting has a much cuter expression on its face, almost as though mom is saying: “kiss my grits!” as she often did when she was angry. The newer painting has a wide-eyed expression on its face. I was thinking this morning that it, too, was like my mom. Mom had a genuine love for life, a willingness to experience new things. Mom thought of her life as a joy. So the new painting as well as the old is an expression of the sweet lady who had given so much to my sisters and me.
“Thank you, mom! I love you with all my heart! Please don’t forget me.”