The very first piece I ever wrote for Her View From Home was posted on the website June 14, 2018. It dealt with losing my mother little by little to the ravages of dementia and how happy we all were to have the bonus time with her—sharing her enjoyment with old movies, a purple sunset, her high school yearbooks, and all of the new friends she made in the memory ward of a wonderful senior living facility. We were so blessed to have her remember all of us as her other memories began to fade, and we spent as much time with her as possible even though our walks with her wheelchair through the nursing home were repetitious and so very sad. None of us would have traded that time for the world.
When our older daughter, Katie, beautifully and bravely read the piece at my mother’s funeral, she had to pause just a couple of times to keep her composure. By the time she came to the last paragraphs, the ones that dealt with a particular painting at the nursing home that my mother loved and never failed to point out, the one with the seaside cottage and the long walkway leading up to it, and always, always feeling she could go up to the door and be welcomed by the people inside, the entire church was quiet as Katie read the last words of my writing . . .
“I like to imagine that will be how it happens for her when our bonus time is over. And how delighted everyone on the other side of the door will be to welcome her home.”
Unbeknownst to anyone but his siblings, our oldest child, Christopher, determined that very moment to somehow bring the seaside painting to me.
He felt that it belonged in our home as a lifelong memory of bonus time with my mom as she was slipping away from us, and a reminder of how peacefully I had determined her final moments were as she knocked on the cottage door and everyone inside welcomed her home.
Chris reached out to the senior living facility shortly after he returned home to Charlotte, N.C. He found the phone number online and called repeatedly, trying to find the right person to explain the story to. Once Her View From Home posted my piece, he included the story with his entreaties. One social worker remembered my mom and our family and said she would take Chris’s plea to the facility director, but then she left and there was another dead end.
He had his brother on call to physically go to The Villages of St. Peters and pick up the painting because he lives not far from the facility but more time passed without any result.
Our daughters got involved.
The younger, an interior designer, reached out to a friend in the artwork industry to try to find a copy of the piece since they seemed to be reaching a dead end with the nursing home. They used a Google app to search for the piece but were unable to make out the artist’s name in the bottom right corner. Another piece of hope was dashed. They knew it wasn’t an original painting, probably just one of the mass-produced art pieces sold to hospitals and office buildings, hotels and restaurants.
COVID had made circumstances even more difficult. And still Chris never gave up hope. Last Christmas, when they were finally able to come into town, he went to the facility in person to plead his case. A nurse asked him if he knew which painting it was, and he walked her and one of the physical therapists down the assisted living hallway and right to it. The nurse couldn’t give him permission to take it off the wall even though that had been his plan, and he was prepared to pay whatever they asked for it. The director had to be the one to give the OK, and she wouldn’t be back to work until after the holidays and Chris and his family had left to return to Charlotte.
But the nurse understood his dilemma, promised she would tell the director all about meeting him and how persistent he had been, and how much it meant to him and his siblings. It would not fall through the cracks. With the onset of omicron, the issue took a back seat. Until May, when he really wanted to have the painting be my Mother’s Day present, so perfectly fitting since it had been my mother’s stronghold, and it would finally make it to the home where he was sure it belonged.
And in June, when they came to St. Louis, Chris finally made the physical connection.
The director of The Villages of St. Peters told him she would unfortunately not be there when he came, but the painting would be waiting for him. He rang our doorbell that Tuesday afternoon and backed away because John and I were still in the five-day isolation period after having contracted blessedly mild cases of COVID.
Chris was masked and pointed toward a huge wrapped present propped up against the house. “It’s your Mother’s Day present, Mom. Sorry it’s late. I’m going to take a video for everyone involved in this who couldn’t be here.”
I couldn’t imagine what it was, and I was absolutely floored that he had made the trip from his in-laws’ house alone because he didn’t want to risk anyone coming too close. I was crying already as I tried to imagine what in the world the huge present was. As I ripped the paper off a corner and saw the beginnings of the framed cottage underneath, I was speechless.
“Is this the painting, Chris?” I stammered. “Is it really THE painting?”
I was sobbing and coughing and shaking my head in disbelief.
“Can you sit with us in the backyard if we stay separated? I need to know how.”
He just smiled as he walked around back and said, “It’s finally home.”
That night he posted a picture of me and the painting on Facebook, thanking The Villages of St. Peters for giving him the painting at no charge after they heard the story. There were so many wonderful reactions to his post, and the Mother’s Day gift—four and a half years in the making.