December 23, 2015 — The stack of random papers on my desk at the hospital stood three inches high. Papers to shred. Folders to file. Items for action. I’d seen all my customers this week. Now, I had several hours to catch up before the holiday.
I made three piles and worked through the stacks. About halfway through, I found a ratty old manila file folder with nothing in it.
I turned it over and saw the words “Devotions and Poems, M. McVay” in my mother’s printing.
My mom, Marilyn McVay, died four years ago this February. For the previous decade, she suffered from increasingly debilitating vascular dementia. For the last few years, she did not know us and needed help with self-care.
The handwriting on this envelope was in her nearly perfect elementary school teacher printing. She had barely been able to sign her name in the last few years; yet, this sample was nearly textbook. How old was this folder?
My eyes filled with tears.
How did this file folder with my mother’s writing appear on my work desk, two days before Christmas?
Do I believe a Divine Hand placed it there? More likely I recycled it for something and left it on my desk at home. I work in my home office in the evenings, often carrying things back and forth to the hospital in a black canvas bag. Did I pick it up when filling my bag in haste some morning?
Honestly, I don’t know how it ended up in the middle of a stack of work papers and projects.
Before she had vascular dementia, Mom battled depression. As a young woman, I had a hard time understanding how someone so blessed could be so unhappy at times. She had a loving husband, two children, many friends, and a wonderful home.
She and I had a tempestuous relationship in my teen and young adult years. When my son was born, she came to help us. Her loving care and patience with a new mother healed our relationship. Today I have no regrets.
In her later years, Christmas was a special time for the two of us. Neither of us liked games, and particularly disdained the card game of euchre. The rest of the family loved what I termed Midwestern brain death.
Mom and I washed the silver and good dishes by hand, and then enjoyed a holiday movie. Often, we watched “The Sound of Music” or a Christmas special. On Christmas Eve 2011 we watched a holiday musical special by an artist I cannot remember. By then Mom didn’t know who I was, and called me “Spunky.”
The artist sang “Silent Night” and I watched mom across the room. She knew every word of each verse. Then we sang “Away in a Manger.” Again, every word. Had either song been in German, I suspect she could have handled that with 79 Christmas Eves under her belt.
How strange the human memory is. The memory’s attic stores songs learned as a child in Lutheran Sunday School, while not allowing the present full understanding.
In my humble opinion, the file folder appearing when and as it did, was a gift, and a Divine gift. Perhaps an angel did not deliver it. Still, the gift reminded me that I had a mother who loved me enough to clip poems and devotions for me. That is the gift.