My wife Sara Faye and I are honored to have her mother Celia live with us in her declining years. The two of them just made a trip to check on the family homeplace in Middle Tennessee. I thank Sara Faye for allowing me to share the following personal reflections with you which she jotted down one evening during that visit in 1999. (Edward)
She sits on the bed surrounded by piles of photographs. The frustration and agitation are evident on her face as she gropes for a name, a place, a memory — searching through the mists which have come to her 87-year-old mind. She brightens at a familiar scene, relishing the details her memory provides; another picture begins the process again.
My mother and I have returned to her house to begin the painful but inevitable task of breaking up a home which, over the past 60 years, has nurtured a young bride, sheltered an only child and comforted a dying husband. Culling the precious from the pointless, the heirlooms from the extraneous, challenges us as we sort through drawers and cedar chests, closets and cupboards.
So many cards and letters whose sentiments once seemed too lovely to toss now fill the trash bags, along with mementos of long-ago trips, and wedding napkins which sometimes outlasted the marriages. There are certificates and honors small and great, and oh so many newspaper clippings recording the milestone events of life — births, graduations, weddings, deaths. All have been lovingly clipped and carefully saved, to be rediscovered now, yellowed and faded, but still giving a rush of joy and a tinge of sorrow for years gone by.
I am thrilled to uncover so many treasures — a magnificent quilt, fine embroidery and crocheted pieces, many inherited by my mother as a young bride, others produced by her own steady hand and sharp eyes. “Did you make this? Where did those come from?” I struggle for associations to make the pieces more meaningful, but the answers are slow and halting and unsure. Undoubtedly, we have begun this endeavor too late; the certainty I crave is no longer possible.
But reliving the past is hard work and tiring to the body and mind; soon my mother retreats from the searching to seek solace elsewhere. She sits at her piano, opens her hymnal, faded and worn from years of use, and begins to play. As I sort through the things, cherishing their beauty, her song pierces my heart and tears sting my eyes. Mother knows the true riches and what really matters most. Her faith is strong, her hope is sure. Her song? “Heaven holds all to me.”