My Thanksgiving Story

Normally when this day rolls around every year, I sort of roll my eyes. I mean, shouldn’t we be thankful for what we have EVERY day? And only in the US could we have a day made JUST for being thankful for what we already have – right before we race to shove each other out of line the next day in order to buy things we DON’T already have. It’s just another day.

But this time… well, this time it’s different. And if you can spare a few minutes, I’ll tell you why.

My mother graduated from Saint Mary of the Woods College in Indiana. Her graduation ring always fascinated me. It had a black face, onyx or obsidian – I didn’t know which – and into that large rectangle was carved the letters, “SMW.” I loved that ring. I would see it on her and just identify it as a part of her. That ring WAS my mother. I told her – some day – I wanted it.

She would shake her head and say, “This is mine. You’ll have to pry it off of my dead finger.”

Fast-forward thirty years.
My parents, now in their fifties, began to get sick. They were running a dry cleaning business in New Mexico, working seventy hours a week, barely bringing in enough to pay the bills. My father’s back, which looks like a calcified map of the Grand Canyon, became so bad he was in agony twenty-four-seven. He also has a muscle disease that acts like arthritis and means chronic pain as well.

My mother, the physical rock in our family, broke her leg. She tried to work anyway; they pushed and pushed, ever honest, good people who wanted to earn a living and pay their way. It wasn’t until my mother finally began fainting from exhaustion at work and my father landed in the hospital with a heart attack that they realized (even though their kids had told them much, much earlier) that they had no choice. They had to sell the business.

Fast forward two loooong years. Every attempt at selling the business had failed. Every deal made with the bank, every concession they’d granted, every single bow and scrape they had performed had mattered not at all. They’d only managed to sell half of the dry cleaner’s, and they had a decision to make. Work until the ambulance dragged their carcasses out of the cleaner’s one night – or declare bankruptcy.

They decided on choice “b.” But they did so only under the promise by the bank that they would not lose their home.

Fast-forward several very stressful months. The bank lied. They are going to lose their home. My father became more ill, my sister began to go through horrible problems of her own, I began to help them pay bills, and my mother became depressed enough that she started giving away everything she had. She didn’t have much, mind you, but what little she possessed, she suddenly wanted her children to own. When questioned, she would just say, “Well I don’t need it anymore.” As if she were waiting to die.

This was depressing…. But I had to ask. “What about the ring?”
“Oh….” she said. “I gave it to Holly.”

Holly is my sister. I was devastated. My mother had honestly forgotten that I wanted the ring. You know – thirty years, four children, stressful job after stressful job, and a brain tumor will do that to a woman. She was so sorry that she’d forgotten, and I forgave her. But I was crushed.

Not long after that, my mother – for some unknown reason to us all – began to, of all things, substitute teach.

Now this really threw us. We figured she just wanted to feel useful. She used to be a teacher, after all, way back in the day. She was such a good teacher, she won an award for being one of the best teachers in New Mexico. NASA had her come up to their holy-secret-never-breathe-a-word offices in California and gave her top priority access to things the rest of us could only dream of – all so that she could share the wonder of science with her students. She’s that kind of woman. So, we finally shrugged and let her do the substitute teaching even though she was making an absolute pittance and she was so, so tired.

Fast forward to this week.
A few days ago, I opened the front door of the house to find a note from Fed Ex. I’d missed a package delivery that required a signature at the door. A few hours later, I got a call from my mother. She told me that I needed to be at the house in the afternoon the following day. She seemed very adamant, so I agreed despite the fact that I’m busier than f@#k. I stayed at the house all day and worked on editing A Sinister Game, which was almost due to release.

The next morning, I found out my mother was in the hospital. She’d suffered equilibrium, nausea, vomiting, and a massive headache. These were things that meant “migraine” to me, but because she’d had a brain tumor in the past, they wanted to be certain. So they did some scans…. More money, but at least we knew she was okay.
The migraine persisted. I gave her advice: caffeine, Tylenol and aspirin combined, no lights or sounds, etc.

The next day, I had a shot in my back that went awry and was bed ridden. Somewhere in that mess, the Fed Ex guy came and apparently didn’t knock loud enough – I don’t know. I missed the package again.
My mother calls me up. “You have to be there tomorrow. I’ve called them. I’ve told them to knock until their hand falls off. I told them to ring the doorbell until its battery dies. You have to have that package.” I asked her where it was coming from – but she wouldn’t tell me. She had sworn everyone to secrecy on the threat of death.

Fast-forward to today. In fact, a few hours ago.
Jarred by the sound of a man knocking as if there were no tomorrow and ringing the doorbell as if someone in China needed to hear it, I ran to the front door. The Fed Ex guy gave me this wide-eyed look, held out a tiny little package, and said, “Thank God.”

I signed his little mechanical device and took the padded envelope from him. It had what felt like a box inside. Small. I looked up in the top left-hand corner to see where it had come from: “Saint Mary of the Woods.”

My heart skipped a beat. I stared at it for half a second longer before suddenly ripping the envelope in half and allowing the box to tumble out into my hand. It was a ring box. I said, “Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. She couldn’t have!”

But she did. I opened the box to reveal a replica of my mother’s ring – down to every last detail. The date was the same, the design was the same, it was heavy and wonderful and instantly reminded me of her face, her smile, her rolling eyes as she would tease, “You’ll have to pry it off of my dead finger.”

I called her up, crying, laughing. I couldn’t believe it. And then she finally – finally – told me everything. She’d taken the substitute teaching job so that she could save every last penny she earned to buy me this ring. She’d felt so horrible about giving hers to my sister; she just wanted to make up for it. She just… wanted me to have this ring. Every time the Fed Ex man failed to put the package in my hands, it killed her a little more. That was where the migraine came from. She was stressed to her limits.

Then she said, “Look inside of the ring. Do you see the inscription?”

I didn’t want to take it off – it fit perfectly. But I slipped it off and turned it over and read aloud, “PGK-HKW.”

Pilar Gonzelez de Killough to Heather Killough-Walden.

Everything in my world turned around in that moment. My life, my troubles, my worries, our hardships, our fears – they all flipped over onto their heads. I saw the stars. I could have been in that NASA office myself just then and I would have known more about the heavens than any of the geeks sitting at those super high-tech consoles. I’d touched heaven personally. It was there – in the silver and black ring that rested in the palm of my hand.

Today, this year on Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my mother. I am thankful for my mother like you wouldn’t believe. And then some.

And I just wanted you to know.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
– Heather

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to My Thanksgiving Story

  1. Tanja/Mokkelke says:

    Heather, thank you so much for sharing this very personal event with us. Over here we don’t have thanksgiving so it mostly just passes me by. I hope mom will get better now she knows she gave you something very unique and how much time she devoted to making this reality.
    *dries her eyes*

  2. Diane Lierman says:

    I can say for sure this will be one of the most charished memories of your mother. The Biggest Blessing is that she is still with you to enjoy the gifting with you! I rejoice with you and thank you so much for shareing your deep love and gratitude beyond the struggles that is the most wonderful pearl of great price.
    Blessing on you and yours this Wonderful Thanksgiving.

  3. Rikki Bright says:

    Thank you for sharing that story. It is so beautiful and to have a precious gift like that from your mother is a very special gift, always cherish it. My mother passed away 8 years ago and I have a bracelet that I’ve always loved when my mother wore it. It was given to her by her brother when he came back from the war, I think WWII, it is a beautiful tear drop turquoise silver bracelet. With that bracelet she had received some earrings. My mother developed Alzheimer’s disease and I, for fear her husband would sell them, retrieved those precious pieces of jewelry. Every time I wear them I feel my mother close to me. May your days be filled with thing precious and give thanks for each and every blessing……Rikki

  4. This was truly the best Thanksgiving post that I have seen this Holiday season. Thank you for sharing an amazing story of true love between a mother and her child. Your mom sounds like the most amazing woman, both your parents really. I had tears reading this, thank you for sharing your story and I’m sending lots of positive love/thoughts to your parents this Thanksgiving season. I’m grateful for stories like this one, that shows the true compassion of a person’s heart, their soul.

  5. Cheryl Smith says:

    Wow! just wow, amazing 🙂

  6. Christina Griffin says:

    Wow!!!! After your “very bad, no-good, awful” weekend, I’m so glad you had something wonderful happen!!!

  7. Maryanne Harris says:

    That was filled with so much love that it made my heart hurt (in a good way)
    It’s that good old saying we have always heard ” What a mom won’t do for her children. I am glad that you shared that with us. Have a Happy thanksgiving.

  8. Jody Meyer says:

    Heather, I’m not a crier, anybody that knows me will tell you that. This had me reaching for the tissues. What a great story! What a great mom! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family….Jody

  9. Angela A. says:

    That was a beautiful story.

  10. Susan Lowry says:

    I don’t think I will forget this story Heather. It made me cry as well. It must feel wonderful to have a mother who would go through so much to show you how much she loves you! She is very special indeed. Now you will always have that ring to remind you of her and how much she cares. How wonderful! Wishing you and your family a very happy Thanksgiving!!!

  11. Shelby Forbes says:

    It isn’t the things that our parents give to us that deserve our thanks. It’s the sacrifices and the life lessons that they have instilled and passed along for which we should be thankful. Thank you Heather. Thank you for reminding us all that we have much to be thankful for. Thank you for sharing a little snipit of your family and a glimpse into the wonderful people your parents seem to be. Happy Thanksgiving and special healing blessings to all of you. 🙂

  12. Anita Brunson says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. We only get one mother and one father and we need to cherish them always. And your story shows that and it shows that your mother cherishes you very much as well.

  13. Barbara Strickland says:

    You made me cry and I don’t cry much these days. Life has made me your mother in so many ways but now I know there is a way back and maybe I can do for my daughter what she needed in a different way, actually for all my children. I love your writing but now I love your wonderful ability to share even more

  14. Kimberly Greene says:

    Omg!..that was INCREDIBLEY touching!..I don’t have the words!..

  15. Tracy says:

    Your mum is a real treasure Heather – but you’ll know that better than anyone!!!
    Thanks for sharing that with us – truly inspiring!!! Hope you & your family have a great Thanksgiving. xx

  16. Cass says:

    I needed a good cry-between trying to get the house nice for company and baking, I really needed that! I have a story to share, but I don’t want to steal your momma’s thunder. Well done Momma. xoxo

  17. Stephanie says:

    Thankyou Heather for your truly heart warming tale and for sharing such a personal part of yourself with us.
    You’re Mother is a blessing and I wish my mother was like her.
    Best wishes and a happy thanksgiving to you and your family
    (and to everyone who is thankfull for thier mother) xx

  18. Jadeen Johnson says:

    Your mother is a wonderful and VERY special woman. You are so lucky to have such a special, loving mom. A mom who would do anything for her kids. I wish I had such mom, unfortunately I didn’t. However it did want me to make sure that I would be the mom who would always be there for my kids and to let them know how special and precious they are to me. I give thanks to my children today and everyday. Happy Thanksgiving.

  19. LaGina Reese says:

    THAT was a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing it with me today. I wish your mom(and dad) well and will keep them in my thoughts and prayers. Peace and love my friend.

  20. Lynnette Lock says:

    I have just been reading this Heather before I fall asleep and it has made me cry, not because of the sadness of the story but because of the happiness in it. To know that your mother loves you with such a passion is heart warming, I lost my mother many years ago so I am always thrilled when I see daughters who cherish their parents. Just as one day your daughter will realise that nothing compares to a mothers love for her child, nothing is as wonderful as a daughters love for her mother. May you have many, many more years together, make each year count and always say I love you when you speak to her. X

  21. Maggie Martinez says:

    Heather, I cried reading your story… the love of a mother knows no limits. Beautiful story and thanks for sharing:)

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  22. julie Ellis says:

    Thank you so much Heather! What a blessing your mother is. Just what a mother is supposed to be, loving & giving to the Max. She gives the rest of us a level to shoot for. Also gives those who read this time to think on what we are thankful for. Thank you for sharing YOUR blessings. 🙂

  23. Marianne Strnad says:

    Wow-what a spectacularly wonderful story! Thank you very much for sharing it. You are very blessed!

  24. Rebecca Willsie says:

    I can say with I am so sorry about your parents trials, and because you love them, yours as well. I can read in your words how much you all love one another. That is truly a blessing, and yes much to be thankful for. Amazing.. thank you for sharing your story.