It had been a very long week that May of 1988. Nancy and I had left Wisconsin in the early morning hours with my sister in her motor home headed for Arizona. The trip was unplanned but not really unexpected. Our dad had been sick—now he was sicker, and we made the decision to go get him and Mom.
We did not make it. When we stopped for fuel just across the state line in Missouri, Nancy called Mom only to find our Dad had died half an hour earlier. We continued to Yuma.
Much of that week is a blur of memory. A brother and other sisters showed up, a nephew, and my brother-in-law. We cried, laughed, and attended services for Dad at the little church in the foothills, but we did not lay him to rest. He would go home to Wisconsin.
When the arrangements had been made to send the body, we all prepared to make our ways back home. Nancy and I would ride with Mom and my sister and brother in-law in their motor home.
That was a good thing. Nancy is a natural care giver, an RN especially interested in families of the dying and deceased. She took charge.
Mom was, naturally, having trouble sleeping. Nancy suggested she wear one of Dad’s shirts to bed. We could see Mom’s face brighten. She picked out a rather plain western dress shirt Dad used to wear to church. It became Mom’s nightshirt. She slept well.
It is a simple thing, a shirt, and it does not really matter how such a thing works. Is it a trick of the mind? Is it a spiritual phenomenon? Or, both or neither? I don’t care. It works.
There is a feeling, a very real sense of closeness, which comes from wearing a loved one’s shirt. Dogs know this. They often grab a piece of clothing to hold close during a lonesome day. It is comfort.
I like to believe that love leaves tracks in things, that things people hold close and/or dear somehow hold remnants of their love as essence of their souls. I find comfort in the belief as people find comfort in the things like Dad’s shirt.
Dad did not have a lot of things. And what he had was divided among six children and many grandchildren. I have a few.
I own a two colored wildflower prints from an old book he cherished. They hang on our bathroom wall where I see them every day.
I inherited his first gun, a 16 gauge single shot he bought used. They ate rabbits and squirrels for survival during those hard times before WWII. It hangs on my brother’s wall where I put it when Nancy and I moved into our RV.
And I have his ring. Not a wedding ring, just a simple Native American silver ring with turquoise chips in an interesting design. I wear it most of the time when I am not home or doing physical labor.
It is not big, bold, or valuable. There is nothing special about it, although I do get compliments. I believe some people can see beauty beyond the visual aesthetic.
Dad loved that ring and wore it faithfully. Twenty five years later, it still keeps my father close to me. I hope I leave such love tracks in a few things to comfort those I leave behind. I hope you do, too.