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by Abigail Van Buren

Proof of a Mother's Love Is Found in Simple Treasures

DEAR ABBY: After a long battle with cancer, my beloved mother died. After we got over the initial shock of Mom's passing, we were looking through her room. It had always been ingrained in us not to snoop through Mom's things, so there were some feelings of guilt when we did it.

On her dresser was an old jewelry box one of us had given her for Christmas years ago. It was a ratty old thing covered in white vinyl, its embossed gold paint long gone. The latch was rusty, but we finally managed to get it open. There was no jewelry inside. Instead, nestled in the threadbare red velveteen, were the treasures of a lifetime of loving.

There were the hospital bracelets each of us had worn as infants, a lock of my baby hair, the first Mother's Day card ever given to her, an old school photo of me framed in popsicle sticks, a gift card written to her by my father before we were born along with other items that probably wouldn't be worth 50 cents to anyone else. But they were priceless to our mother.

My sister and I were amazed. Our mom knew that love isn't something you wait for or something that comes to you from elsewhere, but rather that it's a behavior, a way of being in the world. Her personal treasures were evidence not of the love she'd received, but tokens of the love she had given.

We decided to assemble a scrapbook of these treasures, to be kept for a year by each of us then passed along to the others as a Christmas gift each holiday.

Please tell your readers that in the end, all that matters is the love you give. That is our mother's legacy to us, and it will ultimately be her legacy to her great-grandchildren.

This Christmas, while missing our mother, we will smile through our tears, remembering how her face would be alight with love on Christmas morning at the sight of us opening the gifts she'd left under the tree. And isn't that the greatest gift we could ask for? -- GRATEFUL SON IN CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS

DEAR GRATEFUL SON: Please accept my sympathy for the loss of your mother. She must have been a wonderful woman to have raised such a sensitive son. It's obvious that she knew -- and taught each of you -- that the most important gift we can give each other isn't one that's tangible. The most important gift is love.