Long have I admired the beautiful mum plants people have in their yards or on their front steps each fall season. Old as I am, however, I have never had one.
My doorbell rang just moments ago. As I opened it, I could barely see the smiling deliverer for the delivery he was making – one of the most gorgeous and abundant mum plants I have ever seen. The blooms and the message tucked within nearly took my breath away.
The card reads: “Thinking of you. Sorry for your loss. Treasure the memories. Dieter, Georgia and your friends at All Seasons Garden Center.”
Dieter, Georgia and the All Seasons staff are referring to the loss of my sister, Lori, which I wrote about in my Oct. 13 Grand Forks Herald “In the Spirit,” column. My sadness comes and goes but has been especially with me today for it was just three weeks ago this morning that Lori took her last breath in her home in St. Louis due to a brain tumor. I feel so blessed to have been with her and her husband and children at that moment and to have spent so much of my summer with them.
I want to point out that the little cup you see beside the mum is the one Lori liked to drink her morning coffee from. Bob, her very thoughtful and loving husband, gave it to me as a parting momento.
In my column last Saturday, I mentioned something I’d like to expound on here. It is but a simple thread bare, worn and tattered old washcloth.
When I began blogging more than two years ago, I decided to let the world know that I was a Ruby Girl. There were three of us in our original Ruby Girl circle – my one and only sister, our mother and me – all born in July and all loving our birth stone, the ruby.
Somewhere in our youth or childhood, probably when we were dusting our farmhouse dining room on a Saturday morning, Lori decided we three should be, “The Ruby Girls,” and that’s what we became.
Now, about the washcloth: Mom was known to dampen this washcloth with cold water and to place it on her forehead when she would rest in the afternoon. When we cleaned out her house on the farm, after she died at the age of 98, I found this washcloth and took it for my own. Since 2004, I have used it only to wash my face.
I took this washcloth along on my second trip to St. Louis in June. One morning, after I had flopped on Lori’s bed for us to continue our talks about everything under the sun, I remembered the washcloth and went to fetch it from my suitcase.
I reminded Lori that Mom had used it, that I had been using it and now I wanted her to use it. That way, it would have caressed the faces of each Ruby Girl.
Lori’s eyes filled with tears. “Mom would be so honored,” she said, grasping the cloth.
In the days and weeks that followed, Lori washed her face every day with that cloth. And during her last days, when she seemed flushed, we dampened it with cool water and placed it on her forehead. My hope is that she felt it to be the soothing and loving touch of our mother and me.
The old Ruby Girl washcloth is back home with me now. When I look at it I see it on both my mother’s and my sister’s foreheads. I treasure it just as I treasure the thoughtfulness of the people around me like those at All Seasons Garden Center. Their mum, my very first, came on a day when I needed a little TLC.
And, it blew me away.