Mom’s off-white Formica table with wobbly metal legs had a charred circle on top where I once set a pan that was way too hot. Mom couldn’t afford a tablecloth to cover it, but whenever she suspected a person might have nowhere to go for Thanksgiving dinner, she’d always invite them to our house and have another hungry mouth to feed.
Thanksgiving, for me, meant a house jammed with people I’d never seen before and would never see again. But each year I saw a whole other America through the eyes of the misfits who gathered around my charred little circle. And the stories I heard were amazing. It was magical.
I miss those days.
I watched Mom deny herself necessities during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. Her emaciated paycheck couldn’t possibly feed a houseful of strangers, but she always did it anyway. And no guest ever had to worry they were taking more than their share. Mom’s opulence made us believe, at least for an hour, that we were royal.
What I’ve written is the sort of thing a person usually writes when someone they love has died, but I’m delighted to report that Mom is alive and healthy and recently returned from a trip to China.
I’m telling you about Sue Williams today because she taught me something else when I was young. She said we should give our roses to the living and not save them for the dead.
“When a person dies, everyone who loved them will cancel their other obligations, send a big bouquet of flowers, jump on an airplane and fly across the country to look at their dead friend in a box.” Mom waited a moment for this to soak in. “If I’m going to cancel my plans, buy roses and travel because of friendship, I’m going to do it while my friend is alive to smell the flowers and enjoy the adventure with me. And if my friend passes before I do, I'll sit quietly at home and remember the trip we took together.”
Once a year, Mom would treat a friend to a small adventure, a 3 or 4-day trip together to someplace interesting. Taos with Theresa. Santa Fe with Dee. A trip to Alaska to see Janice. West Virgina to see Velma. A trip to the Bahamas with Vicki. Spain with Cindy. These are the people my Mom cares about too much to attend their funerals.
Stephen Levine poses a very interesting question: “If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say? And why are you waiting?”
I’ve borrowed Stephen’s question for our weekly e-Poll. Your answer, when approved, will appear at the bottom of today’s Memo in the archives at MondayMorningMemo.com. (Approval usually happens within a few hours.)
So tell us, who would you call?
Roy H. Williams
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“You say I have deeds but you have love. Show me your love without deeds and I’ll show you my love by my deeds.” – transliteration from the book of James, chapter 2