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This is for anyone who's ever lost a mother, father sibling, partner or special friend that you were very close to and knows the feelings that remain alive inside of you forever... I lost my Mom in 2000 a think of her often with happy thoughts and feelings of warmth. So to you who have recently lost someone, or are going through turmoil over someone dear to you who is dying, know that it is those special memories that keep us going after all is said and done.

And You Always Will
By LeAnn R. Ralph

I opened the dish-towel drawer for about the sixth time, hoping the towels had somehow magically appeared. But of course, the brand-new towels still weren't there. "What did Mom do with them?" I wondered aloud. I knew they had to be around somewhere because I'd given them to her for Christmas only a few months ago. Not that the towels were so terribly important. It's just that when you're expecting guests, you'd kind of like everything to look nice. Okay, so maybe I wasn't going to find the dish towels. But then again, the guests wouldn't arrive until tomorrow. Plenty of time to worry about dish towels later. On second thought, maybe I ought to forget about the towels altogether.

My father's niece and her husband didn't seem like the kind of people who'd leave in a huff because their host hadn't put out new dish towels. What next? Perhaps I'd better see if I could lay my hands on Mom's best tablecloth. A tablecloth was always one of the things my mother insisted upon when we had company. I went to the drawer where Mom kept her tablecloths, and sure enough, there it was. But when I pulled out the hand-embroidered tablecloth and shook it open, I gasped in dismay. Right in the middle was a big stain. Now how in the world did Mom's best tablecloth - the one that had taken her so many months to finish - end up with a stain? Oh yes, that's right. We'd all been here for Christmas, and one of my brother's kids had accidentally knocked over a glass of soda pop. The sight of her grandchild sobbing with remorse had been more important than the tablecloth, and Mom had said she was sure the pop would come out when she washed it.

All right, so it looked like I'd have to forget the tablecloth, too. Maybe I'd be better off attending to the big things right now, anyway, like vacuuming. Satisfied that I was finally going to make some progress, I got out the vacuum cleaner. Except - why did it sound so funny? And why wasn't it picking up those bits of paper on the living room carpeting? I pulled out the attachments hose and flipped the switch again. A-ha. That's why. No suction. The hose was plugged. Well, of course the hose was plugged. I couldn't find the new dish towels. Mom's best tablecloth had a big stain. Why wouldn't the vacuum cleaner hose be plugged?

And right then and there, I started to cry. Now what was I going to do? Would a wire hanger fix the vacuum cleaner? No new dish towels and no tablecloth was bad enough, but I absolutely could not let guests come to the house without vacuuming. I went to my mother's closet, found a wire hanger and straightened it out. Thirty minutes later, however, the vacuum cleaner was still plugged.

Where was Dad? I knew he'd gone outside and that, because it was mid-April, he was probably puttering around in his garden, but why wasn't he in here when I needed him? After being a farmer for more than fifty years, he could fix absolutely anything. And besides, I had plenty of other work to do. Just at that moment, my father came into the house. "What's wrong?" he asked, noticing my tear-streaked face.

Although it had been years since I called him "Daddy," it just sort of slipped out, and along with it came fresh tears. "Oh, Daddy - I can't find the new dish towels. The tablecloth has a big stain. The vacuum cleaner is plugged. And - and. . . ." I stopped and swallowed hard. ". . . I miss my mother." There. I'd said it. And in that instant, the whole world seemed to stop while Dad drew a deep breath and let it out slowly.

"I know you do," he said. "So do I."

You see, only three weeks earlier, my mother was diagnosed with advanced gallbladder cancer. Mom had died Saturday night, and this was Monday. My father's niece and her husband were driving 275 miles to attend the funeral, and they would be staying at the house. As Dad gazed at me, I noticed how much he seemed to have aged in the last few weeks. His face was covered with silvery stubble, too. It was a rare morning when my father didn't shave, but then again the past couple of days had been far from ordinary. "And you know what?" Dad continued. "You always will miss her. In fact, it won't ever go away completely. Not even when you're as old as I am."

After the funeral was over and my father's relatives had gone home, I found the dish towels. Mom had put them in her dresser drawer. And with several washings, the stain finally came out of the tablecloth. Dad had been able to fix the vacuum cleaner, too. But nothing could fix the fact that my mother was gone. And now all these years later, I realize Dad was right - I am always going to miss her.

But I've also figured out what else he was trying to tell me on that April day in 1985 - that missing my mother keeps her alive in my heart

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