BONNIE NAY, a retired newspaper editor and publisher from Roy, Utah, is a contributing writer to Renaissance Online Magazine. She can be reached by email at BNay601@aol.com
She picked up the little wood rocking chair, holding it fondly, as if it were a longtime friend. The little chair had been sitting on a small table by the window. Rachel's growing-up years were here in this house, among all these familiar things. Wherever she roamed this would always be home because Mom was here and love was here also.
Rachel's finger traced along the beautiful wood. The intricate markings were so familiar. "Mom," she said, "how long have we had this?"
"All your life," her mom replied, "and almost all of mine." Rachel's mom again told the story. She smiled a little and said "My brother lovingly carved it for me when I was twelve." Rachel knew her mom's thoughts were going back in time, and resting a moment in the past.
Rachel had heard the story hundreds of times. Both of them knew it well, but Rachel enjoyed hearing it again, just as her mom enjoyed telling it one more time.
Then the day came that eventually comes to us all. Yet, we are never quite prepared. Mom's funeral had been just a week ago.
Now, sitting across the room from her brother Paul, just as Rachel had done with her mom a few weeks ago, she shared with him some of the special moments of their lives.
Paul was just two years younger than Rachel. They had always been close, having no other siblings.
"Remember when?" said Paul, and went on to relate some common experience. Rachel replied "Yes," and the tears would come again. They cried a little, and smiled a little, remembering Mom and her positive approach to life. Recalling ordinary days that turned into special days, because of Mom and because of her traits of fairness and common sense.
Suddenly, Paul picked up the little rocking chair. Rachel again looked at it fondly, just as she had done a few weeks ago. Sunlight gleamed through the kitchen window and rested on the little chair giving added emphasis to the richly polished wood.
Paul turned the little chair over in his hands and said "of all Mom's belongings, I would like to keep this. You and the family can have everything else."
Rachel was stunned. She had always thought that the little rocking chair would be hers someday. Never thinking that Paul would have the same feelings.
She looked out of the window quickly, needing some time to think. She had always loved the little chair and wanted it for herself as a remembrance of her mom, and yet, she loved her brother so.
Rachel knew that she must answer, but as she gazed back at Paul, her silence had become her consent and he placed it in his pocket.
Later, Rachel and Paul stood on the lawn together, their arms around each other. Both giving the needed support that only family can give.
Again, she thought of the rocking chair. Again, she said nothing. But as she drove home the little chair permeated her thoughts.
"In the morning I will go over to Paul's and I will explain how I feel," Rachel said to herself. "He will just have to understand." With that thought tucked away in her mind, her spirits lifted a little.
Rachel had been home for an hour. The phone rang. The voice at the other end of the line was authoritative but also on the contrary, it had an obvious tone of empathy and compassion. The voice asked for Rachel and then identified herself as being the dispatcher of the local police department. "Your brother, Paul, has been in an accident. Can you go to the hospital right away?" the dispatcher asked.
Rachel parked her car and ran from the parking lot. The large glassed doors of the hospital loomed in front of her with a feeling of dread.
She found her way to the emergency room. Paul was lying on a bed in a curtained off section of a large room. He was unconscious. His ashen face made Rachel's heart ache. His condition was serious.
Later in the day the doctors moved Paul from emergency to ICU. Rachel called Paul's two children that lived out of state. They would arrive tomorrow.
The rest of the day and all that night she stayed with Paul. The room was warm and yet, for Rachel it seemed cold. The room was small, but seemed austere and silent with apprehension. Paul was so still.
The evening of the second day, Paul's children arrived. Between the three of them they kept a constant vigil at Paul's side. Although his children told Rachel to go home and get some rest, she did not.
That night Rachel again stayed by Paul's bedside, sometimes holding his hand, sometimes talking to him softly.
In the morning Paul stirred slightly. Rachel almost thought it was her imagination, because she had wished it so. The nurses were in the room immediately, having noticed something different on their monitors at the nurse's station.
A doctor was summoned and was in the room within minutes. But that was all there was. However, it was a beginning - and now there was hope.
That evening Paul stirred again and opened his eyes. Focusing on Rachel, a weak smile came over his face and he said "Where have I been?"
"Too far away from us" Rachel replied. "But now you are back. Please stay." After a few days, as Rachel, Paul and one of his children were making arrangements with the hospital to take Paul home. The office secretary handed Paul a bulky envelope. "This is yours," she said.
Paul opened it and let the contents slide out. A wallet, a few coins, and a slip of paper dropped on the counter. But something else was stuck in the bottom. Paul grasped it and pulled it out slowly. It was the little wood rocker.
"That was in your jacket pocket when the ambulance brought you in," the secretary said.
Rachel took it from Paul and held it gently in her hands with thoughts now rushing through her mind. How was it that a few days ago the little chair was all she could think about? Then something so much more important had erased it from her mind.
Values, she thought. Something her mom had always taught her by example. Something she had not learned completely. Rachel recalled the little plaque that had been hanging on her mom's living room wall. It said "The Best Things in Life Are Not Things".
For Rachel, that lesson had finally come home.
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