“You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:32)

On the table next to my bed there is a picture of my Mamma and me; it was taken in 2010, the last Mother’s Day we shared.  It’s all so confusing.  In some ways it’s unbelievable that in a couple weeks it will have been five years since we made that picture. The memory of her is so fresh I can almost hear her laughter;  and yet, the emptiness in my heart feels like an eternity.

I can’t help but wonder if things would have been different if I had known then that if would be our last Mother’s Day. Would I have lingered just a little longer before saying goodbye?  Would I have given her one more kiss, held her hand for a minute more, told her one more time I loved her?  Of course, we can never know about those things, it wouldn’t be right to know.  I can only hope that in spite of all that Alzheimer’s had stolen from her, that she knew she was my Mamma.  I hope she knew what a special lady she was and how much she was loved and admired, .

One of my favorite devotions, written for her that same year she passed, is “The Red Purse”.  I like to share it each Mother’s Day in honor of her and as a reminder of how blessed I am to have known her .  I pray you will be blessed.

The Red Purse

Sandra Bivens Smith

©2010

Turning 60 had a profound effect on me. It seemed that everything either sagged, wrinkled or just plain quit working. Aside from the changes my body experienced, I notice some changes mentally as well. Thinking more about today and worrying less about tomorrow became easier; after all as one gets older, it becomes a fact of life that today is pretty much all you’ve got. And, I bought a red purse. Now, you would have to know me to appreciate what a big step that was. As I am pretty much a black, white, and navy blue kind of gal, purchasing a big red pocket-book was a bold move. Over the past couple years, that red purse has become a dear friend. As constant companions, we have come to know and depend on each other. Like me, she is becoming worn in spots and more than a little frayed around the edges. Her zipper doesn’t work quite as smoothly and her lining is ripped.

My daughter constantly mentions that I need to replace my red purse. “I like it” I tell her, “there is nothing wrong with my purse”. “But Mom”, she says, “the stitching is coming loose and the leather is worn down. It’s all worn out.” She’s right. It is all worn out. But in spite of how frayed it is on the outside, my red purse still serves a purpose. I can still put all my treasures inside with confidence that they will be secure. It still carries my eyeglasses, phone, tissue, lipstick, and a myriad of other “necessities”, and rarely complains about the strain.

We live in a world where the new and improved is mostly preferred over the old and proven. It’s like that with people as well. The world looks at those who have become frayed and worn on the outside and judge that their usefulness is spent. But, if they would just take the time to look on the inside, they would discover treasures. They would find a bounty of experience, wisdom, counsel; and wealth that can only come from living.

This attitude toward the aged is not new. As King David was in the later years of life and faced his son Absalom’s rebellion to take over the kingdom, David prayed, “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent” (Psalms 71:9).

My Mamma now lives in a nursing home with many others who, like her, have lived out the better part of their lives. She has advanced dementia and can barely speak in sentences. Her eyesight has failed so that she can barely see and her legs are so weak they can hardly support her frail frame. It would be easy to spend a few minutes with her and conclude that she has nothing to offer. I know better. All those years of living, learning, and experiencing are still inside her mind. Just because she has lost the ability to express her wisdom, doesn’t mean she no longer has it. Thinking back to Mamma’s advice through the years, advice which most of the time, (regrettably) I ignored, I wish with all my heart, I could ask her just one more time what she thought. You see, it’s now clear; Mamma was right about most everything. It is no longer possible to ask her for her thoughts, but it is not too late to seek her advice. How Mamma lived, how she loved, has taught me more about life than all the world could ever hope to teach me.

Do you want to know what’s important? Spend time with those who have actually lived life. Do you want to learn how to get through the trials of life? Visit with someone who has gone through season after season and survived the storms that came with each one. Do you want to be wise? Watch and learn from those who have gained wisdom that can only come from the experiences of living through good times and hard times.

Start your own “Red Purse Society”. Seek out those whose leather is worn and whose stitching is loose; look inside and I promise, you will find great treasure.

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