December 20, 2008

My Mom Arrived Today

Those of you who know me well and those of you who've kept up with my blog for any length of time know that my mother died in 2006. Given that fact, the title of today's post might strike you as odd. I assure you I have not lost my mind, at least not totally, so stay with me here and let me explain.

My parents were good-hearted, compassionate and giving people during their lifetimes. And in keeping with these qualities, they chose to continue giving, even after death. My dad used to tease that their organs would be so old and worn out by the time they died that they wouldn't be useful for organ and tissue donation, so they picked another option. They donated their entire bodies to Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine, to be used for education and research purposes by medical students.

When my dad died, my mom had the choice to receive his cremated remains after the research was completed, or to let the school dispose of them properly. She chose to let the school keep him. It can take at least two years for the cremains to be returned to the loved ones, and some people just don't want to be in limbo for that long. I, on the other hand, chose to receive my mom's cremains and have waited patiently for two years and two months for her arrival. I had gotten a call a week ago from the department in charge of donations and was told my mom was being mailed out. So, for the last week, I anticipated her arrival.

A few months ago, our friend and neighbor, Eileen, started asking me periodically if I had heard from my mom. The first time she said that it took me off guard. I'm thinking, you know my mom is dead, what do you mean...have I heard from her? Then it dawned on me that she meant have I heard anything about her cremains. And so it went for at least a couple of months...Eileen would ask if I'd heard from my mom (she said it the same way every time), and I would report that I had not....until last week. My mom was sent via registered mail, so a signature was required for her delivery. Unfortunately, when the mailman arrived yesterday neither Neal nor I were home. The receipt stated that my mom could be picked up at the post office today. The waiting continued.

Shortly after we got up this morning, Neal announced he was going to pick up my mom so I wouldn't have to get out. He's a softy like that. I knew I wanted to write about my mom's arrival, and already had the title decided, so I began this post. Soon after I started typing, Neal and my mom walked in the door. He gently handed her to me and I stared at the box for a minute before beginning the unwrapping process. When I peeled away the brown paper packaging, I found an envelope attached to the outside of the box with a letter from the School of Medicine. It was your general form letter, thanking us for the donation and explaining that without such donations they would not be able to properly train future and current doctors, dentists, nurses and other health service practitioners. The letter also stated, at the end of each course in which remains are utilized, a memorial service is conducted by the students, to honor those who have donated their bodies for the advancement of medical science. I imagined a room full of students, none of whom knew my mom, but who had possibly learned something valuable from her, pausing to honor her life and her memory. Oh boy, that got me, and the blubbering began.

My mom was a wonderful teacher to me and so many others during her lifetime. And for the last two years she has continued to teach complete strangers. I would say that is a legacy to be proud of.

Yes, Eileen, I heard from my mom today and she spoke to me in volumes.


Suzan said...

Oh, that's a lovely story, Lilla. I'm thinking of your mom's visit today as well.

Lilla said...

Thanks, Suzan. She was a lovely woman and I am so glad she "arrived" in time for Christmas.

JOE and JANE said...

That's awesome, my friend!

Susie McCoy said...

Thank you for sharing that. You mom was a wonderful person and continues to be. What a generous gift to research. The way you talk about Eileen, I think she is one that your mom would have loved.

Merry Christmas!

Lilla said...

Susie, my mom actually got to meet Herm and Eileen before she died and she did like them very much. She was so glad to see we had good neighbors watching over us.

Merry Christmas to you!

Anonymous said...

Lilla, your story-telling is enchanting. You need to start writing for publication! I couldn't stop reading this one.

Lilla said...

Valerie, thanks for the compliment. I'm afraid if I started writing because I had to instead of because I wanted to, it would no longer be fun! I don't do so well with deadlines!