Christmas 1996, the last gift

It would be the Christmas of 1996 that I remember most, the first Christmas without my mother. She died on Nov. 7 that same year, after a two-year battle with cancer.

It started in her lung, brought on by a lifetime of cigarette abuse. The cancer eventually spread, eating away her spine, pelvic bone, sacrum and pancreas. By August 1996, her condition had deteriorated and she was walking with the aid of a cane. Her pain had also become fairly intense.

And so I will never forget one late summer evening in 1996 when I had gone over to my parents' house to visit. After dinner, when her pain was usually at its worst, my mother hobbled into the kitchen, summoning me to follow her. She wanted me to look at the J.C. Penney catalog on the kitchen table.

She opened to a particular page, pointed her finger at a certain cappuccino machine, and asked, "Is that the one you want for Christmas?"

I was momentarily stunned, wondering how she could think beyond her own excruciating pain to concern herself with what I might want for Christmas, especially not knowing if she would even be around to celebrate the holidays with us.

Despite my emotion, I managed a smile and said, "Yes." It wasn't until later when I got into my car and drove to the end of my parents' street that the tears came.

While driving home that night, I realized that there is nothing stronger, nothing more beautiful and nothing more determined than a mother's love for her child.

And so the inevitable came when my mother died less than three months later.

As my father and I sat together on Christmas morning, I wept uncontrollably as I opened my last gift, the cappuccino machine.

Susan Codeglia is a resident of Dayton.


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