When I moved away from my family in Massachusetts to New Jersey in 1978, my mother and I got into the habit of sending each other greeting cards for not only every holiday, but for any reason whatsoever. We would come across funny personalized birthday cards, thank you cards, and other all occasion cards in our travels and mail them to each other as another way to keep in touch other than by telephone. Inside these greeting cards, I would include pictures of my growing children and she would sometimes include cash, coupons, and anything else she deemed worthwhile. We looked forward to these thinking of you cards because it brought us closer together, despite the distance we were from each other.
My mother is now in a nursing home as she has Alzheimer’s disease. She does not really comprehend too much of anything anymore but I still decided to send her a card for her birthday shortly after she went into the home. I knew she wouldn’t be able to read it or even open it, but I could not forget it was her birthday. I hoped that a nurse would read it to her and perhaps place it on her nightstand. On my first visit to the nursing home, I discovered that each patient had a shadow box hanging in the hallway outside of their room in which photos were placed of their family or anything else the family chose to display. There was my mother’s birthday card in her shadow box, the only item she had! I was so happy that one of her nurses had taken that card and placed it in her empty shadow box.
Now I look forward to sending my mother a special card for every holiday – and occasionally one for no particular reason at all. I look for greeting cards with bright colors and pretty designs. I try to include a current photo of myself even though I absolutely hate to have my picture taken. Although it is only a card, it is still my small way of keeping in touch with my mother, who has lost touch with the world we once knew together. I don’t want her shadow box to ever be empty again.