I remember Mama. I remember her unselfish spirit, always giving never complaining, never expecting anything in return. I remember how hard she worked to provide for the needs of her family – not only the physical needs but the heart needs as well. I remember how she sacrificed for us kids, the many times she went without so we could have. I remember the many nights she sat with a sick child – nursing, caring, comforting. I remember her sweet voice as she sang the beautiful old hymns of her childhood faith. I remember her laughter and her tears. It seems Mamma always had joy in her heart, even when she was carrying a burden. Even now I smile as I remember Mama’s whistling as she went about her tasks; it seems she was always whistling.
The last years of Mama’s life were not easy. Alzheimer’s came along and took away most of her memories and eventually, her life. The year before Mamma passed, I was inspired to write “The Red Purse”. I am sharing it today it in honor of her and as a reminder of how blessed I am to have had her as my Mother. As you read, it is my hope that you will be “inspired” in some way. If your Mother is still with you, I urge you to let her know, at every opportunity, how much you love her appreciate the memories she gave you.
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 it 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; they would find 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 the 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.