The Things A Mother Didn’t Do

It’s uncovered … once again.

I open the drawer to my daughter’s chest-of-drawers, shuffling a few items around to make room for the new. Beside me, my daughter’s sweet hands work, shifting and folding.

Ooh, what’s that? My hand glides over the shiny, smooth surface–the object lining the drawer. Stashed away. Purple. Paint. Prints. “Oh.” We carefully reveal and pull it out. It’s the baby, when she was a baby … her tiny handprints. Made in Sunday school.

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Frustration and disappointment sink to my lower tummy. My heart follows, weighing down a little heavier. “I never did hang this,” I admit. I look to my daughter. “I meant to frame this.” I stumble for words. “I just kept forgetting.”

How many times have I said that over the years? How many times have I stumbled across the thing I never did? How many times have I failed to make a change, make a difference? And now, it seems really too late.

“It’s okay, Mom.” She smiles, always assuring. Always forgiving.

We read over the words together, smiling, laughing, remembering how artistic and messy she could be. Oh, the stories there to share.

“Look how tiny your hands were.” She smiles and gives a little nod. It’s amazing how something so tiny can fill you so full … full of wonder and joy and love.

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We plop down for a game of Princess Uno. I marvel at how I manage to get my teenagers to play Princess Uno still. I never managed to shift to the older version. I guess I enjoy hanging onto all little all I can. And I laugh at the irony–that I played the older version when I was a kid, and now I play the princess version as an adult.

We eventually move to the bed, side by side, talking about her best bud, school, drawing, cats … The daughter who doesn’t love to dance jumps up and takes my hands in hers, and we waltz, laughing, tripping over each other. “You’re going to make me fall,” I say, with a frightened giggle.

Before I know it, best bud is joining us and sister, too. We’re looking and sorting through all the items stashed away in baskets on her bookshelf. And laughing. White wicker baskets, lined in pink-and-white polka-dotted fabric. It’s little items. Cherished items belonging to both of my daughters, from their childhood. Things I just couldn’t part with. Things I cherished too much to stash away in the attic. Because … what if we needed to see them, look at them, read them, breath them in … remember? Now.

I pull out tiny baby Bibles, framed baby pictures, tiny photo albums, and notice the dust covering the stuffed animals. A wave of embarrassment washes over me. I never did make my teenager a teenager room.

I mean … it’s cute, but it’s still a little girl room.

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“Do we need to change your room?” I ask. “Are you happy with the pink paint? It was named ‘Lauren’ … remember? After your best friend. Remember how we had moved away, and you were so glad the paint color had her same name?”

“Yeah. I think we should repaint and change things up some,” daughter says, with her cutest typical smirk–the smirk that tells me she loves me just the way I am, behind and all.

“What color would you possibly want? Other than this color?” I can’t think of one that would be better. Not a single one. Translation: do I have one more paint job in me?

She mulls over the idea.

“Can your room just stay little?” I ask. I know the answer to that. I love being a mama. I thought I’d never be one once. And I’ve loved every step along the way. But the uncovered truth is–I always seem to remain a world’s pace behind. What’s wrong with me?

I didn’t do this. I didn’t do that.

Days pass.

Daughter rushes toward me carrying something precious. She cups the tiny somethings in her hand, like she’s protecting it, guarding it, loving it.

Her eyebrows raise, eyes sparkling. Her smile grows. “Look, Mom. Look what I found in the basket on my bookshelf.” She beams, extending the treasured possessions to me, with her fresh prints anew.

It’s two tiny “A Little” Little Golden Books–The Poky Puppy, Little Golden Book Land. “I can’t believe I found these,” she says. “I didn’t know they were there. In my baskets. I loved these.”

One tee-tiny book, having been read so much, is bound by tape. Bound by love. Some things, some actions are just bound to be. Do you agree?

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And something is uncovered right at that moment. Embracing that second-in-time to my heart like a cherished friend, I’m so thankful I didn’t do what I never did. I’d never do what I never did again for another moment like that.


Happy Mother’s Day! Do you have a similar story to share?  Have you found a little favor through your failures? 

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What Alzheimer’s Can Never Take Away

Sweet, familiar faces greet me at the glass screen door. Through tender hugs and peering over beloved shoulders, I begin my search for her. It’s hard to believe this day is here. I’m amazed. Her kids weren’t sure she’d live to see this day. It’s been a rough road lately, I hear. But she’s entered into the hour of her 80th birthday.

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The last time I was here, she conversed with me. She won’t be able to today.

I see her. I take in her sweet details from a distance.

She’s so loved. Disease can take so much from a person. People can give up on you, and one can choose to give up on themselves and others, but from where I stand, Alzheimer’s can’t take away your loves. She is curled up on her side, on the couch, cuddled into her pillow and blanket. So much princess pink. Her loyal Maltese blends in to the white cotton pillowcase, taking up more pillow space than my aunt’s precious face is. The beloved caregiver beckons the help of my cousin, the daughter, and they ease her to standing at the walker. The caregiver cups my aunt’s face in her hands and kisses her forehead.

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She’s so strong, even in her weakness. Because she’s all heart–all heart that fought for grandkids, that survived cancer, that survived the loss of two beloved children, that survived the loss of a husband, that fought and survived so much more than I’ll ever be privy to. Her fragile fingers grip the walker rails. Because Alzheimer’s can’t take away a fighting spirit. Time after time, her kids wonder if she’s being escorted away into the arms of God, but to everyone’s surprise, He wonderfully escorts her wandering mind and body inch by inch to the table through the hands and feet of Christ. She takes a seat at the queen’s chair, the candles are lit, and everyone gathers around her with love, in love.

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She’s so tiny. Always has been. But a recent chest cold pummeled on top of Alzheimer’s leaves her frailer than ever. Her beautiful skin clings to her precious cheekbones. Yet a glow emits from her eyes, as her two remaining daughters sprinkle her face with kisses. She looks, in part, like a ten-year-old with her sweet braids. The room fills with the fragrance of a struck match and a rising melody, happy birthday over her. And the words we know so well since childhood seep from her lips … happy birthday to you. “She’s singing,” I say. “She’s always singing,” says her caregiver, smiling. She is. She sings hymns with her sisters–my mom, my other aunt. One voice begins and hers will blend, like always, because Alzheimer’s can’t take away your treasure. A tiny package containing years of stored-up infinite treasure. Childhood treasure. Leaning-on-the-everlasting-arms kind of treasure.

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She’s so determined. She sits there, wobbly. But she will see this through. Her daughter opens the presents before her, for her. Chocolate and more chocolate. Giggles disperse. I think back over my conversation with my cousin, when I’d inquired over what I could possibly get my aunt for her birthday. If time is short and space is limited, what can I give her? “Chocolate,” said her daughter, my cousin. “She can still eat chocolate?” I asked, surprised. After the week she’d had, being so sick … “She sure can.” Would you look at that? My cousin places a slice of cake before her, crackers and Coke. All her favorites. She parts her lips for one tiny bite after bite, one tiny sip after sip, because Alzheimer’s can’t take away your favorites. 

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She’s so … Heading home, I ponder my aunt in admiration. I can’t quite put my finger on the situation. My oldest says, “Mom, did you hear what Aunt Novie said when we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ … when we sang ‘and many more’?” My daughter giggles. I glance at her through the rearview mirror. “No. What?” I say. My daughter gasps for air, trying to compose herself. “She asked, ‘There’s going to be more?'” I laugh. That’s exactly right. Because Alzheimer’s can’t take away your humor.

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And that’s when I put my finger on it, really put my finger on it–when it seems one doesn’t have a lot to go on, one goes on what they’ve got. Illness can take away much, but some things found in this life can never be removed without authority–love, treasure, a fighting spirit, determination, humor, Coca-Cola, chocolate, and best of all, Jesus. 

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Do you know anyone suffering from a disease like Alzheimer’s? What can you add to the list that can never be taken away? 


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©Shelli Littleton

Reflecting the Light from Above — A Repost in Honor of Mother’s Day

Her fingernails and toenails had all been soaked and clipped, and the pink on her toenails reflected the light from above. Satisfaction seeped from my soul.

“Ma-Maw, it’s time to wash your hair.” I smiled, encouragingly nodded. The long, frayed ends of gray hair were not her normal. No, she’d kept her hair short and tidy for as long as I could remember. I have one picture of her with longer hair, when she was 26.



“No. I don’t need it washed,” she said emphatically.  

“Please,” I pleaded.

“Okay.” The defeat in her voice broke my heart.

I had already set the kitchen table with my necessitieswarm water, shampoo, towels. I’d have to work quickly. 

I walked her fragile self over to the kitchen slowly and carefully, and she sat down in the wooden chair. Though I counted it a privilege, I felt overwhelmed. I had been assigned a task by family and didn’t quite know if I could pull it off. But I’d said I’d do it. And I’d do it. I’d try.

I had to think outside the box because she was too frail to get into the bathtub. Her back was too frail and painful to lean over into the sink. She could barely make it into the car to go to her doctor appointments. Going to a hair dresser deemed out of the question.

Why did I feel like the one deemed useless? I was scared. And I couldn’t have her slipping on that floor. I couldn’t risk another bone in her precious back broken.

I wrapped towels around her soft pink nighty and around the chair. Warm water gently poured from the pitcher in my hand’s grasp over her precious hair. In the middle of the kitchen.

“It’s cold.” She began to pout and cry like a little child. But getting a glimpse of her as a child was precious. A smile grew across my face. It would be over so soon.

With the shampoo rinsed out, I wrapped her in warm towels, slipped a baby blue clean nighty over her sweet head, and led her back to her chair in the living room. Fresh and clean.

“Ma-Maw, it’s time to trim your hair,” I said as I combed her beautiful tangles. The first time I had ever cut her hair. Little did I know, it would be the last.



Every now and then, she’d utter, “That’s good enough.” Her patience was growing thin.

As I dried her hair, I couldn’t wait to curl it, to mask the uneven layers by my imperfect hands.

“Ma-Maw, this is the last curl. Let me just spray it with hair spray, and we’ll be done.” In her weak condition, this was a traumatic experience for her. 

“There. All done, Ma-Maw.” I smiled, relief seeping from my weary soul.

“I want to see it.” She stood to her sweet feet like a spring chicken and walked with renewed energy down the hallway and into the bathroom. She looked into the mirror and smiled. “Thank you, Baby. That’s real pretty. I appreciate you for doing that.”

I couldn’t refrain the giggles dispensing from my heart and lips … her attitude had completely changed. It was the best idea she’d ever had.








Because I’m missing my grandmother. Are you missing someone special?



When a Mama’s Heart is Covered in Band-Aids


My heart joyfully, painfully broke. The first day I saw Little Girl in the flesh, the day she breathed her first breath, she had an infection and required a baby IV. She scratched her tiny face raw with it. From the bottom of my heart, the slight break began and inched its way slowly upward. And long before she had the IV removed and received her first princess Band-Aid, I placed my very first Band-Aid over my mama heart.



Little Girl fell when she was a tiny tot. Her mouth kissed a land timber against her will in our front yard. Oh, she cried. I cried. I placed ice on her sweet lip when she’d tolerate it, and I placed a Cinderella Band-Aid on my own heart. I’ll never forget how traumatic the event was, but we were so blessed that she didn’t lose any teeth or need stitches. Thank you, Father. After she cried herself to sleep, I laid her down in her sweet baby bed. I peeked in at her as she was waking. She eased to a sitting position and said, “Big.” I nearly fell to the floor laughing over her remark. And oh, her sweet lip was so swollen.



Not long after that, Littlest Girl had a kidney tumor. It was the nightmare you imagine. And better and worse than you imagine. Littlest Girl had to be poked and prodded. Continual blood-work. Whenever the nurse would cover Littlest Girl’s arm or finger prick with a Band-Aid, Little Girl wanted one, too. And she’d take and place her bandage on her sweet body in the exact same spot as Littlest Girl’s. It was her sweet way of empathizing with her sister. And this mama would open the white wrapper to a Mickey Mouse Band-Aid and place it over her own heart.



As the years passed, boo-boos came and went. More bandages placed over this mama’s heart. The thickness grew and grew, the colors growing wide and vivid.

Little Girl was at church one night. She scooted over on the bench to let a friend sit down. Before she could move her hand, friend sat down on her thumb. It broke. Little Girl was so brave. Her broken thumb didn’t matter one bit to her, but her friend’s broken heart did. We spent the wee hours of the morning in the hospital’s emergency room. And this mama added one pink Barbie Band-Aid to her heart.



Little Girl and Littlest Girl are growing up. One’s a senior. One just turned Sweet 16. Little Girl just got her first car. This mama’s heart can barely take it at times. Every time my girls leave out in that car, without their mama chaperon, I walk into the bathroom, open the cabinet, and look through the assortment of Band-Aids before me. What will it be today? Winnie the Pooh? Superman? Hello Kitty? Hearts? Minnie Mouse? Tinkerbell? Disney’s Frozen.



But that’s what mamas do. Right? We love our kids. Through broken bones, broken toys, broken dreams, broken hearts. Because love always takes a risk. But it’s the pain and the cuts and the scrapes on our hearts that turn it more beautiful, brighter, more colorful. 

And as the thickness of the bandages grows, the padding becomes softer. And with the extra softness, we’re able to take a little bit more in order to comfort others a little bit more. Like … to comfort our children. To offer a soft place for our children to place their head against our hearts as we hold and comfort them. No matter how old they get. And for one day to comfort our children when our grandchildren get their first boo-boos, or endure surgery, or endure disease, or endure stepping into the arms of Jesus. We never know, do we? One day to the next. We never know.

The mama heart never stops adding bandage after bandage. Peeling away the wrapperthat end of the sticky side, the other end of the sticky sideand placing it over the heart.

Because a mama hurts when her babies hurt.

Mama, this is your Shelli. Your Shelli Ann. Thank you for the bandages you’ve taken for me, taken for your grandchildren. Season after season. Thank you for your beautiful heart. Yes, that beautiful heart of yours, covered in layers of Band-Aidsbright pinks, greens … princesses, tiaras, Eeyore, Mickey Mouse, hearts …. Thank you for the prayers you’ve prayed and the tears you’ve cried over me. For watching me walk out that door, for watching me take one step away from you, for watching me get cuts and scrapes and broken. You know all my secret broken places, all my secret injuries and scrapes. Thank you for all the times you’ve let me rest my head against your soft stack of Band-Aids and allowed me to cry my heart out. And thank you for all the times that you’ve placed the bandage over me and for adding one more bandage to your own … 

To make a mother’s heart …

A mother’s heart that is beautiful, bright, bold … bandaged.



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Do you have a Band-Aid story to tell? Maybe of your kids or animals. Or maybe a story of how you caused your mother to place a Band-Aid on her heart? I’d love to hear it.

And a dear friend’s daughter survived a horrible car accident recently. We are praying for McKenna, who is 18. Her mama’s heart is buried deep in bandages right now. Would you pray with us, too? 

Happy Mother’s Day.