I gave the funeral director the special mementos to be placed in the pocket of my mother's casket: photos of her four children and six grandchildren; her "#1 St. Louis Cardinals Fan" plaque; a stuffed red bird that my niece and nephew named "Albert Pujols," after the onetime Cardinals star; a "Fa-La-La-La-La-La-La-La-La" button, one of hundreds our family has given out in the past 20 years when Christmas caroling for friends or holiday shoppers; and right by her side, a copy of her last Newsday.
My mother, Mary Crema, never went a day without her newspaper. When we lived in the Bronx, she would walk me and my three sisters home from school and stop at the newsstand for a treat for us -- and to buy her paper. Back then, I believe it was the New York Post.
When we moved to South Setauket 40 years ago, she ordered a Newsday subscription the day we arrived. She worked the night shift at the Internal Revenue Service in Holtsville and would return home around 2 a.m. and read "my Newsday," as she always said, front to back until the sun came up. She would cut out recipes, cartoons and, as a native of St. Louis, sports-page photos of her beloved Cardinals.
Over time, my sisters and I married and moved away, my father died and my mother's health declined. She could no longer walk down the driveway to retrieve the paper from the mailbox. Family and neighbors would bring it to her, but not always.
"I miss my Newsday," she said.
We called the paper and arranged for it to be left at her front door. With her walker, she would shuffle to the door and reach for the paper with a grabber stick. When snowstorms hit, my husband and brothers-in-law would make sure her driveway was cleared first so that the delivery person could get to the porch.
Mom grew more ill and could no longer walk or get out of bed. She was admitted to Brookhaven Health Care Facility in East Patchogue in October 2011, where she was cared for by wonderful professionals. Her Newsday subscription was transferred to the home, along with her Major League Baseball cable-TV package. Newsday was now delivered directly to her bed.
I would ask if she wanted me to bring her books and she would reply, "I don't have time. I have my Newsday."
I ordered a subscription to another paper last Christmas and canceled it that January. She only wanted her trusted friend. Due to her illness, she would be transferred back and forth between the nursing home and the Brookhaven Memorial Medical Center, and the newspapers would pile up at the nursing home. We would buy her a new copy at the hospital, and when back at the home, she would decide which ones she had read completely.
On Thanksgiving, my mother went into the final stage of her illness and went back to the hospital. We didn't bring flowers. I brought her Newsday. It lay on her stomach like a comforting blanket. She couldn't reach it, nor read it. But she knew it was there. It was her friend, her companion, a medicinal aide and her lifeline to the outside world.
She died Nov. 27 at age 79. And she was buried with the paper at her side.
Thank you to the wonderful delivery people, health care professionals, family and friends, for bringing mom the newspaper.
Reader Marion Amato lives in Holtsville.