Figuratively, mothers wear many hats as they raise and care for their famlies.
My mother also wore actual hats, as was the fashion, when I was a young girl. I especially remember shopping for new hats for Easter Sunday and other special occasions.
The three hats pictured above belonged to Mother. They now reside on a shelf in my sewing room.
There are a few more in my closet, some still kept in their original boxes.
In the bottom of the boxes, are faded receipts bearing names of department stores I remember so well. Stores where my mother, sister and I would shop for clothing and household items. Stores where you "dressed up" to shop. Stores with elevators and elevator operators wearing thick white cotton gloves. Stores in downtown Amarillo. Sadly, none of them remain in business.
Some of the boxes also hold bits of netting, ribbon or other millinery trim, perhaps removed and exchanged for another shade of ribbon or embellishment more suitable for the season or ensemble.
Sixteeen years ago today, not a hat, but a heavenly crown was placed on Mother's head.
Daddy and I held her hands and bid farewell. She had been diagnosed with Stage IV Ovarian Cancer on Easter Sunday, April 15, 1990. A diagnosis that shattered and changed my world forever.
During the next four years, Mother would once again don hats to hide her hair loss. A former middle school teacher, she would also put on her teacher hat and instruct all of us about faith, strength, determination, humor and grace.
Cancer is a horrid disease, but it is kind in one way. It allows us time to say goodbye. Nine days before Mother passed away, I wrote her a letter.
Three pages of memories, gratitude and love. Daddy read the letter to her when it arrived in the mail. Many years later, I would find it neatly folded in its envelope and resting in the top drawer of Daddy's desk.
As the years have passed, I discover that Mother has never really left. I look at my hands and see her hands. I catch a glimpse in the mirror and see a marked resemblance. I listen and hear her words tumble from my mouth. She is up above, watching over and continuing to love and guide me. My prayer is that I am at least a tiny fraction of the person she was.
She was extraordinary.
I will see her again some day. I am trying to determine how to lovingly ask her why eating all those carrots, which she promised would be good for my eyes, did not do the trick! She will give me that beautiful smile of hers, hug me as she always did, and all will be well.
Until then, she is only a breath away.