Years later, it was heart breaking to see my mother-in-law eventually succumb to Alzimer disease—it was slow and cruel. In spite of our differences we actually grew closer as she went through this difficult journey.
I know a toy is made only of plastic and has a life cycle determined by the hard cold facts of global sales tracking, but we cannot track or even forecast the positive effects they give to children and adults alike—the emotional ties they produce with their intrinsic personalities and play patterns.
From healthy kids playing with their toys for daily amusement to children in the hospital ward finding comfort in a funny gag played out just for a moment of relief—toys bring joy. They bring comfort to a troubled mind and remain in our memories like cherished friends.
My wife, Cathy, placed toys all around her mother’s room in the nursing home. Bernie responded positively and held them in her trembling hands. She would hug the plush teddies and gently rest her face upon the soft material that always promised comfort and security. We saw first hand that there is an etherial, almost spiritual connection for souls of all ages to be touched by the wonder of play.
The toys with gags would especially bring a smile to Bernie's face and give a glimmer of joy to her eyes harkening back to childhood days. After all, moments of fun, laughter, joy and comfort are all we can really call our own as we travel through this life and prepare for what follows.
Surrounded by family, I held her hand and kissed her cheek as she lay on the hospital bed. Her breathing grew more and more difficult while my wife’s eyes were filled with tears. The time had come for her to return home and finally find rest.
The heart rate monitor beat slower and slower and gradually dimmed as faint as her breathing. One by one they continued to fade until the room was overcome by silence. We were left with the peace that survivors feel after an indomitable storm—that realization of just how precious life truly is and how every moment and every breath is a gift to be cherished.
For me, Thanksgiving is not only a time to eat my weight in turkey and giblets but also to remember those I loved and lost. Those that shaped me and those that helped to sand down my rather rough edges from growing up in the south side of Chicago.
I hope this holiday will fill your life with even more endearing memories of family and friends. Remember to take the time to embrace those you love and even those you may find difficult because they both work to grow you—to form the person you are now and the person you will eventually become.