“Be really careful with that, would ya?” I say to a friend from church as he picks up a lone piece of luggage sitting atop the boxes in my garage. It is a light blue, well-traveled, faux leather shoulder tote piece of Samsonite luggage. It smells old…like moth balls and the 80s…and my mom. “What is it? A family heirloom?” he shoots back as he takes it and tosses it in the back of the moving van along with all my other worldly possessions.
Actually, it is…or at least it has become one, to me. It used to belong to my mom. I remember she used to carry that blue tote on every trip she would take…on women’s retreats, to visit her best friend in Georgia, on family vacations to the beach, on trips to see her mom in West Virginia. She loved that thing.
Inside the blue tote are red flannel pajamas. Someone bought them for her when she got sick, but she never got a chance to wear them. They still managed to get the smell of her perfume on them though, probably from simply being in her dresser drawer.
I had never really considered what to keep for memories’ sake when somebody you love dies…until mom passed away. I loved my mom. She was my best friend. Two years before she got sick and died, I was out on a walk, talking with the Lord, and I heard His still small voice say, “What if you have to live without your mom? Will you still worship Me?” It hit me so hard…a momentary sensation of life without my mother in it. It took my breath away. And in the same moment, I knew that I would choose God. I would continue to walk on with Him. I couldn’t fathom my world without mom in it – even though I lived in another city and was in my 30s, we still talked on the phone every day. She was my spiritual counsel, friend and biggest cheerleader. I prayed that we would enjoy each other’s company for many years to come…and yet, from that moment forward, God was preparing me for what was up ahead. The journey had just begun…
Life without mom has brought me to a whole new level of life with God. While I wish deeply that I could have both my mom and this new life with God, I don’t believe I would be where I am with God today if mom was still here. And somehow, I know this is all an answer to her prayers. She was such a loving mom and devoted disciple of Jesus. I have read entries in her journals containing her prayers for my sister and me. She longed that we would come into all that God has for us and that in doing so, her daughters would be her legacy in this world and in the world to come. Besides us, she loved two things – worshipping God and interceding for people and countries – but she always wrestled with feelings of inadequacy. Now, from her vantage point in heaven, I believe she is still doing all these things – loving us, worshipping her God and praying intensely for others – now, she does it all perfectly.
And so for my journey into life without mom, I choose to carry with me the luggage and the pjs. Strange family heirlooms, I know. I also inherited some antique furniture, jewelry and even half a house…but it’s the luggage and the pjs that remind me of her, not all the other stuff.
I have been in transition over the past year…selling my house, quitting my job, starting a new job, leaving the comfort of my old church family and finding a new place to call home. As we unloaded the truck, putting all of its contents into my new apartment, I lovingly and carefully found just the right spot for the blue piece of luggage (pjs inside) – out in my storage closet, atop the plastic containers of Christmas decorations. To anyone else peering in, it is just an old piece of luggage sitting in storage, but to me, it is a little piece of home as I venture onward in my journey with God, a special reminder of family, of love, of mom.