The other day I went to Culver’s to pick up lunch. At the drive thru window I saw a young African American man that has worked there for many years. He gave me a bright smile and asked, “How are you?”
“Im fine,” I said, as I smiled and handed him some cash.
“How’s your mom and dad?”
“Mom passed away,” I said. He looked sad as he took my money and turned to the cash register. “Mom passed away, ” I repeated, and I tried to smile a bit, to show him it was okay to ask. And that I was okay. He nodded sadly as he handed me my change, and drink.
I pulled ahead to wait for my order. And the heaviness of mourning came over me. My thoughts flashed back to the past, when Mom was still able to get out, and every Tuesday I took her and Dad to Culver’s, and Dad bought us all lunch. I remembered sitting in the booth across from them, as they sat shoulder to shoulder. I thought of the managers who got to know us because of our frequent visits, and who were so friendly and kind.
I remembered how whenever Mom got up to use the restroom, or when it was time to leave, if there were any little children or babies around she would stop to talk to them. And I would wonder what the parents thought, as they smiled. Sometimes Mama would point her cane right at a little one’s face to tease them. Then I would apologize for Mama and draw her away.
There was something sweet about sitting in a booth with Mom and Dad. I’d run to refill their sodas. I’d order frozen custard cones when we were done with our meals.
Eventually it became too hard to take Mom out. I’d bring food home instead. And the managers and some of the staff at Culver’s would ask how Mom and Dad were doing. It was nice that they were known and thought of fondly.
Because so many of the people who have offered sympathy to me over the past few months never knew my mama. I’m so grateful for the love and concern they’ve expressed to me over my loss. I know it’s heartfelt and real.
But there is a special comfort in hearing from those who actually knew my precious Mama. Most of her friends have already passed on or moved away, and our extended family all live far away. When a former neighbor, who had moved out of state decades ago, heard about Mom’s death she sent a sympathy card. She shared memories and kind words about Mom that touched my heart. And I felt compelled to send her a program from the memorial service and a copy of the eulogy I had written.
I feel drawn to those who knew Mama, especially those of her own generation, when she was full of life and health. Like somehow if I connect with them I’m closer to Mom again.
But Mom’s best friends went Home before her. And I picture them now welcoming her in heaven with hearty hugs and big smiles. I can see them sitting around a table, shoulder to shoulder, sipping tea and sharing stories and laughing.
And so I can smile, even though it’s often through tears these days. And I’m thankful for the friendly young man who asked about Mom and Dad at Culver’s. Even though he didn’t know what to say, I could tell he cared.
And there is a gentle mercy in knowing Mama is remembered.