The past weekend was a rough one. I headed up to Mammoth Lakes for the last time to visit my mother’s house which is being sold and in midst of a 21-day escrow. As many of you know, due to my Mom’s worsening dementia, I moved her down to a memory care facility in Oceanside last February to be closer to me and receive better care. With the escrow date rapidly approaching, the house needed to be cleaned, boxes sorted and closets emptied. Luckily my sister and brother-in-law had already done most of the hard-lifting by donating much to charity and willing neighbors.
As I walked up the staircase to the living room, I caught an awe-inspiring view of the Sierra Nevada mountains, standing high and proud in the distance. As John Muir once stated, “The mountains are calling and I must go.” Over the years, my family and I had been called to these mountains. Hiking, backpacking and cross-country skiing were among the outdoor activities enjoyed in this splendid, verdant wilderness. Now it was ultimately time to say good-bye to this house with its the towering pines and inherent memories.
I knew this task wouldn’t be easy – sifting through the boxes of old pictures, my mother’s artwork, dishes and crystal wear. Having recently cleaned out my own garage, I reminded myself of all of the “stuff” that was donated and the feeling of lightness that followed. The thought of bringing more “stuff” into my garage made me cringe. Many of these things would be of better use for others who truly needed them. I focused on the emotionally tying treasures – those that both my mother and I had cherished.
Upon opening one of the boxes, my eyes caught sight of a bundle of brightly colored drawing pencils from Germany. My mom had used these to create colorful portraits many years before. I asked my sister if I could please take them and placed them in the box of treasured belongings to take home with me.
I drove back to San Diego the next day with only one box in my car – containing a haiku that I wrote for my mother in third grade, some elementary school portrait photos, two Christmas nut-crackers and a beautifully crafted ceramic box she had made. There was also the bundle of colored pencils secured tightly with a red rubber band for safe travel and delivery to my mother and her fellow residents at the memory care facility.
The next day, before visiting my mother, I stopped at the 99 Cent store to pick up some Mandala posters. These are wonderful templates for people of all ages to color and let their creativity run wild. My mother and I, as well as several of the residents, sat at the long table in the activities room, each with a Mandala portrait in front of us. That’s when one of the residents, Violet, said to me, “You bring so much love.” My eyes lit up and the weekend’s sorrow slowly faded away. Although my mom’s face was expressionless, I knew she heard it. Violet’s face beamed with a huge smile and her bright eyes twinkled. For a split second, I caught the glimpse of her as a young child on Christmas morning about to unwrap her treasures.
Soon, the room filled with stories of heartfelt experiences and cherished memories. After a few moments, a silent bond formed between us, bringing us far closer in our art-filled wanderlust. My mother didn’t join in the conversation but I knew she was participating in whatever capacity she could. A sense of peacefulness and joy permeated through the room.
This simple gift – a bundle of colored pencils – brought tremendous joy to all of us that day. My mother’s pencils had traveled from Germany, to Mammoth Lakes and now, to the memory care center in Oceanside, California. Plus, the mandala posters were also a great hit!
I left that afternoon with a tremendous feeling of warmth in my heart. “You bring so much love.” This phrase reverberated through my brain. Although, my mother no longer knows my name or my relationship to her, deep down I am sure that she understood Violet’s delight and expression of gratitude for what we had done.
May we realize the profound impact that a simple act of kindness can have on those around us. We are all human, searching for connection, meaning and understanding. The simplest, seemingly insignificant actions can produce heartfelt memories for years to come.
Please share your simple acts of kindness with me. I would love to compile a list of “the little things in life” that bring tremendous joy to those around us.
In health and happiness,