“Mom, Sara’s back with the eggs. Are you sure you’re feeling up to this?”
She struggled to stand as she reached for her cane. “I’m a little tired but I am going to enjoy Easter with my grandchildren.” Her weary yet determined eyes looked up at her only son as she continued. “I may not have another one to enjoy.”
“Mom, don’t talk like that. You just need to rest and take it easy.” David spoke optimistically but the words of the doctor’s prognosis echoed in his heart and mind.
“Your mother’s kidneys are failing. We’ve done all we can. Offer her rest and medication.”
His mother had also heard the words of the doctor and penned her final wishes.
“I made a list for you.”
“Mom, please don’t talk like that.”
“Now, let’s be realistic, my son.” Her shaking hand placed a piece of notebook paper in David’s but he refused to look at it and quickly shoved it into his pocket.
She pulled her arm back quickly, frustrated at her involuntary shaking.
“Let’s go to the living room, Mom.”
As she sat, she repeatedly spun her favorite gold ring around her finger. Sara assumed it was her attempt to focus and settle her shaking hands.
David helped his mother to the sofa as Sara placed bags of plastic Easter eggs on the coffee table in front of her.
Sara spoke cheerfully. “I bought ten bags. They each have ten eggs so that gives us an even 100 to hide in the backyard.”
David smiled at his wife. “Perfect.” He sat himself next to his mother and emptied his pockets of loose change.
“We’ll need more than that, my dear boy.” His mother declared.
“I’ll get some more.” Sara left the room as the family dog made his way in.
“You spoil them, Mom.”
“Over here, Harley, over here, boy.” She called to the eighty-pound Labrador Retriever while simultaneously ignoring her son’s comment.
David watched as she pulled a dog biscuit from her purse. Harley gently took the treat from her trembling hand and she smiled in pure delight. The treat was devoured within seconds and a request for another came in the form of several wet licks to her face.
“Harley! That’s enough.” David proclaimed.
An expression of glee erased any lingering fatigue as his mother wiped the dog saliva from her face. “Oh, I don’t mind.”
David smiled. “You spoil him, ya know?”
Harley crawled onto the sofa and rested his head on her lap. Sara returned with a clear plastic bag full of loose change and two cloth bags.
They spent the next thirty minutes filling the plastic, colored eggs with coins. Sara and David pretended that they didn’t see his mother slipping Harley several more dog treats.
“You should put a ten-dollar bill in one of the eggs. Just to make it more exciting.”
Sara and David smiled at each other. His mother had made the same suggestion every year for the last seven years. And for the seventh time, he replied, “Great idea, Mom.”
She slipped Harley another treat and beamed with delight at the happy pooch despite the crumbs falling into her lap.
When they had finished filling the eggs David suggested that his mother rest before the kids began their big hunt.
As David stood they heard a crunch beneath his foot. He bent down and picked up the remains of a crushed, yellow plastic egg.
“Well, they still have 99 to find.” The adults chuckled and placed the eggs in the cloth tote bags.
“Sara and I will hide the eggs in the backyard. We’ll let you know when it’s time for the hunt. Okay, Mom?”
She nodded in agreement and quickly fell asleep with her right hand resting on Harley’s head.
About an hour later David returned and woke his mother. “Ready to watch the kids find the eggs, Mom?”
“Oh, yes!” Her nap had recharged her energy and with the help of her son, she walked outside to the backyard. She sat on a brown chair with thick, green cushions with Harley in a sit position to her left. Her fingers spun her gold ring around and around while her eyes remained fixed on the activity in the yard.
“Keep looking! They could be anywhere!” She called out to her two grandchildren.
Jenna, named for her grandmother, ran from bush to bush along the fence. Jenna’s little brother, Jake darted from tree to tree in search of plastic riches. They squealed in excitement each time they pulled a pink, yellow or blue egg from the foliage.
The adults laughed amidst the cries of, “Here’s another one!” and “I found a blue one!”
When the kids were done with their search they ran inside to count their treasure.
The sound of plastic eggs being cracked open and loose change falling to the table echoed throughout the house.
“I found the ten-dollar bill!” Jake yelled.
Jenna’s face displayed a look of disappointment. “Did we find them all, Mom?” Jenna asked.
“We hid a total of 99 eggs. How many do you have?”
Jake and Jenna quickly counted their plastic eggs and replied, “50” and “48”.
“There’s one more out there somewhere.”
The kids ran back outside. Their grandmother watched as they searched for over an hour. Sadly, they were unable to find the last egg.
“Okay, kids, time to come inside.” David called out.
David helped his mother inside and to her comfortable spot on the sofa with Harley resting his big head on her lap. Her grandchildren joined her on the sofa.
“Grandma, I found the ten-dollar bill!”
“I know. Congratulations, Jake.”
Jenna sat quietly next her grandmother with her head down.
“Don’t be sad, Jenna. Good things come to those who wait.”
“I’m going to go count my change!” Jake ran from the room.
Jenna slowly raised her head to the sensation of paper touching her hand.
She looked at her grandmother and smiled. “Thank you, Grandma!”
“Don’t tell anyone.” She whispered.
The two namesakes exchanged knowing glances as Jenna put the crisp ten-dollar bill into the pocket of her shorts.
Little did David and Sara know that she had been compensating the children each year to ensure they both received a ten-dollar bill on Easter Sunday.
“Time for lunch.” Sara announced as she and David entered the living room.
David easily read their facial expressions. “What are you two up to?”
“Nothing, Daddy.” Jenna said a little too innocently.
Jenna kissed her grandmother on the cheek and a wide smile flashed on her young face. “Thank you, Grandma.”
“You’re very welcome, sweet Jenna.”
Jenna skipped out of the living room.
Before David could speak, his mother asked, “Could you help me to my room? I’m feeling a little tired.”
David smiled. “Sure, Mom.” He helped his mother to her bedroom and she slowly climbed into bed.
“I’ll check in on you in a little while.” He turned to leave but paused to ask, “Do you want the T.V. on?”
“No, thank you.”
“Are you thirsty? Would you like some water?”
She smiled and looked down at the bed to hide the building moisture in her eyes. “No. Thank you for taking such good care of me.” She looked back at her son. “I love you, David.”
“Okay. I love you too, Mom.”
Over the course of the day David checked in on his mother several times and each time found her sound asleep. Not wanting to disturb her slumber, he closed her bedroom door and eventually went to bed himself.
“I think she overdid it today. She’s sound asleep.” He told Sara as they turned out the lights.
The next morning he found his mother’s bedroom door ajar. Harley was on the bed next to her with his head resting on her lap. A soft whine emanated from his big dog and its tone rang of sadness.
David reached for his mother’s hand. Cold to the touch, he fell to his knees in tears as a devastating realization overcame him.
Sara took Jake and Jenna to their Aunt’s house while David saw to his mother’s final needs.
Later, as the sun was setting on an emotionally exhausting day, David sat in the same brown chair where his mother had watched her grandchildren hunt for Easter eggs.
His hands fell to his lap and he felt something in his pocket. He pulled out the folded piece of notebook paper that outlined his mother’s final wishes.
Now forced to read it, he wiped the water from his eyes and scanned the list.
“My dear David. Thank you for taking such good care of me. I don’t want a funeral but you can have a small memorial if you’d like. But have it at your home. That is where I always felt the most welcome.”
David was losing his continued battle to keep the blurring tears out of his eyes.
“My will is in my small safe in the bedroom closet. You, of course, get everything. Please don’t forget my grandmother’s ring. It was her mother’s before her and now it will be Jenna’s.”
David sobbed as he read her final words.
“This is how you will know I am still with you.”
He went to her bedroom and searched through her jewelry box, drawers and safe. But, there was no ring.
Panic filled his head. The hospital returned only a bracelet and her clothing to him. Where was her ring?
Overcome with grief, David returned to the backyard. He held his head in his hands and tried to ignore Harley’s cold nose against his arm. But the persistent canine nudged him repeatedly.
David finally lifted his head. As he reached out to scratch Harley’s coat, his eyes widened in surprise at the sight before him. Inside Harley’s big snout was a bright yellow, plastic Easter egg.
Despite his sadness, he chuckled and removed the wet egg from his mouth. “How did you find that, boy?”
David wiped the doggie drool from the plastic egg while Harley whined and grew agitated.
“Since when does an Easter egg get you excited?”
Curious, he unsnapped the two joined sides of the egg. His jaw dropped as his eyes identified the contents.
On one side rested his mother’s ring that was promised to Jenna. David held the ring high in front of him and watched the waning sunlight glisten off its spectacular white stone.
He recalled her words. “This is how you will know I am still with you.”
Harley’s excitement quickened from a begging whine to a loud bark.
David removed the contents of the other half of the egg and looked at his big dog.
As Harley gently took the dog biscuit from his hand, David looked up to the heavens, smiled and said one last time, “You spoil him, ya know?”
Gare Allen is the best-selling author of Two’s Company, Three’s a Pack-A Story About Dogs, Life and Loss and A Family in Faith.