"Well, wish me luck," I said to my wife.
"Good luck," she said, and then, "Wait, why am I wishing you that?"
"I'm going into Mother's recipe box."
She laughed that throaty laugh I love so much. We always joked about how anyone who approached her recipe box would probably be sucked in as if it were a whirling vortex with its own gravitational pull. It wasn't your standard box--a cardboard box filled to overflowing with seemingly no semblance of order. Yet, Mother was able to find exactly what she needed whenever she needed it.
I had avoided it long enough, having put it off for months. That was partly because it seemed too daunting a task, but more because her passing had been too fresh in my memory.
My mother was a special woman. God-fearing, prayerful, and filled to overflowing with Christian kindness, she gave of herself more than anyone I have ever known. She would prepare our Thanksgiving meal without any help, and then sit at a small table to the side so she could run to get anything that was needed. Late one Christmas Eve I got up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water and found her at the stove preparing the meal for the next day.
"Mother, go to bed, I'll help you with that in the morning," I had said.
"It's all right," she had replied with a smile on her face. "I don't mind."
That was typical of her. Her spiritual talent was was that of a caregiver--always making sure everyone was taken care of before herself. She married at a young age and took care of my father and us kids. When my grandfather became senile and her mother had a stroke, she ministered to both at the same time. She took care of my father as he was dying of cancer, raised my niece after my sister was killed in a car accident, and later cared for her older sister when her kidneys failed.
Then, at the age of 80, it became physically too much on her small frail body. She suffered a heart attack and had quadruple-bypass heart surgery. My wife and I agreed to build an in-law suite onto our home and move her in with us. As expected she protested, but failed to overcome our insistence.
I'll never forget one night as we were sitting around the dinner table she said, "You know, all my life I've been taking care of someone else. It's nice to be taken care of for a change. This is one of the happiest times in my life."
Our hearts had melted.
Now it was time to face that dreaded recipe box. I had developed an unquenchable taste for my mother's cornbread and needed her recipe. Diving into her recipe box, I started searching.
"Ahh ... HA," I exclaimed as I miraculously drew it from the depths of note cards and scraps of paper.
As I did so, a small folded note fluttered down through the air to come to rest on the tabletop. I stared at it, not knowing what to make of it. Finally reaching toward it, and after unfolding it, I read:
"May you always be as happy as you are today."
I was stunned. What day had been so special to her that she wanted to remember it always? I picked it up, and still staring at it, carried it into the room where my wife was sitting.
"Listen to this," I said, and then read the note.
My wife smiled with an odd glint in her eyes. "Don't you remember?"
I shook my head no.
She rose and raising a finger in the air said, "Hold that thought."
I heard her rummaging in the next room. When she returned she held a plate in her hands. I recognized it immediately. It was a signature plate that every member of our family had signed at our wedding. As my wife held it up to me my eyes were drawn to the very center. There, in her familiar script, was what she had written on the note.
"I know she wanted it to be perfect. So she must have practiced writing it out and then tucked it in her recipe box," my wife said.
Leave it to Mother. She was always thinking of someone else's happiness.
I returned the note to the recipe box--Mother's recipe for happiness.
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