By D. "BING" BINGHAM

For the Capital Press

The phone call I dreaded turned out to be the one I appreciated.

"You better come now," my sister said, "there's not a lot of time left and Mom wants to see you."

"This is 'the call' isn't it?" I asked, already knowing the answer.

"I think so," she said.

A parent's death happens to everyone -- some sooner, others later.

We asked a neighbor to toss some hay to our livestock and told him we'd return home as soon as we could. My wife and I hopped in the pickup and headed for the big city.

Flying down the highway, my sister called again. She was checking our time of arrival. I asked her if Mom was still sleeping a lot. Yes, she answered, in fact she'd just awakened.

"You know what Mom said a few minutes ago?" she asked.

"What's that?" I replied.

"You know how Mom's always joking around? You're not going to believe this, but she woke up a few minutes ago and saw several family members gathered around her bed. She announced, 'For an occasion like this ... we need a new set of coffee mugs!" I cracked up laughing and almost put the pickup in a ditch.

Coffee mugs? I thought. Well, OK, you asked for it.

My wife and I stopped at a specialty import store on the way and picked up a fancy new set of coffee mugs. After all, what sort of son could refuse his dying mother's request -- even if it is for coffee mugs?

When we arrived at her house, Mom was extremely weak. We showed her the coffee mugs and she was delighted. We shared some time and a few last words together. Moments later, she slipped back into sleep. Quietly, I placed the mugs on the table beside her bed.

We waited.

My mother passed in the middle of the night. My brother and sister were holding her hands and I was standing at the foot of her bed. She passed with grace and ease.

After we notified the authorities, the siblings waited for the ambulance. One of us noticed the mugs on her table. We decided each of us would take one home afterwards. Then when the weather turns cold and the days are dark, we could each fix a cup of coffee in that special mug and take a moment to think about Mom.

It turned out that the phone call I dreaded contained my mother's farewell gift for me. She clung to life until I arrived from across the state. We shared a gentle moment and she gave a tiny chuckle as I showed her the brand new coffee mugs she'd ordered for this special occasion.

The death of a loved one is never quite what one expects -- with or without coffee mugs. Still I appreciate the farewell gifts my mother and I exchanged in our final moments together.

Bing Bingham is a writer, rancher and storyteller. He uses his coffee mug in his office. If you have a story to pass along, contact him at bing@bingbingham.com

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