Even in loss, there are little treasures.
On the day we said good-bye to our mamacita in the ICU hospital room that had been our home for a couple days, all I wanted to do was go crawl into my childhood bed. I wanted to sleep for a few weeks, wake up, and have someone tell me that none of it was true, everything was going to be okay, or, at least, that I had slept through the worst agony and sidestepped the deepest pain.
But we had a meeting the next morning with the funeral director and needed to take clothes for our mom so my sister and I didn’t go to our own bedrooms when we got back to our childhood home. We went to our mom’s even though we were both dreading it.
As we worked our way through her closet, we were struck by the surprises that awaited us. In one coat, we found rocks in the pocket, treasures our mom had found on one of her daily walks, treasures she had seen worthy of picking up and sticking in her pocket. My sister held them out to me like gemstones, and we split them up dutifully for our rock collecting children.
Deeper into the closet, I found a handful of dream catchers. Summer break had started on Friday, the day our mamacita had suffered what would become a life-ending cerebral hemorrhage. Just days before that, Happy and I had written our summer to do list which included finding or making a dream catcher for him.
Incredible, I thought. Just incredible. I put the dreamcatchers in my bag to share with my boy later.
Then I found a small Timon and Pumba toy. My little boy loves The Lion King. My mamacita did as well. They watched it together more than 25 times, I am certain, and for his fifth birthday, we treated all the grandparents and Happy to the Broadway show that was visiting Charlotte. Everyone was enraptured (“Rewind it, mama,“ Happy insisted after Circle of Life). I pocketed that small toy, randomly in my mother’s closet now -though I had gone through it just months before in a closet purge- and origin unknown, for my boy, too.
After picking out mamacita’s outfit, we decided to look at all of her crochet supplies. My sister is a knitter, and she could use most of mom’s things. Crocheting was one of our mamacita’s great gifts to the world. Over and over again, as people called and visited us, they kept saying, “She made a blanket for me or my child or my grandchild.” There are hundreds of blankets out in the world that our mamacita carefully crafted. We call it her blanket ministry.
As we sorted the yarn, we found two unfinished blankets that just needed edging. Both I instantly recognized. They were for Happy. One was a soft green, meant to match Happy’s bedroom. The other was a bright orange, turquoise and white one that Happy had picked out one day when I took him and my mom to her favorite yarn store. After catching my breath, I texted my neighbor for help.
“I found blankets meant for Happy,” I told her. “But they need finishing. Can you help me find someone to finish them?”
Of course, she answered. Just bring them to me.
A few weeks later, the blankets were back on my door step. And though the women who helped finish these blankets demurred—your mother had an incredible stitch, we couldn’t duplicate it!- I wouldn’t have these incredible gifts for my boy without their help, without their willingness to complete my mother’s final blanket ministry.
Next week, we will celebrate Happy’s 7th birthday. I am devastated that his Abucita, my mamacita, will not be here for it, and yet, I am so incredibly humbled that I can wrap up one of these blankets for him (I am saving the other one for either Christmas or Three Kings Day) and remind him that he was always on his Abucita’s mind, always in her heart. I am humbled that he can wrap himself in that blanket when he misses his Abucita most, that her gifts are still with us in some way.
And I am struck by how I could have denied myself these little treasures if I had waited until the next morning to run into my mother’s room before that meeting at the funeral home and grabbed the first dress I saw. I wouldn’t have had time to linger over her things, put my hand into pockets, look in her crochet bins. I wouldn’t have found just some of the gifts she left.
The world hands us breath-robbing, soul-crushing things all the time, and yet, it invites us, too, to see that there is still wonder, still magic if we do not shut our eyes too tightly in our pain, if we allow ourselves to squint past the wreckage and glimpse a refuge. It sends out gossamer thin threads of connection, like Happy’s blankets, that can keep us here, keep us grounded, keep us pushing forward, past the agony of it all and into the wonder.
Find the gossamer today, sweet friends. Let it guide you.