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Kisses from Heaven

Many times we don’t realize the significance of something until after the fact. We’ve needed a chance to reflect upon it, or we see it differently after time has passed.  There can be a lesson learned, and we see the greater scheme of moments in our lives.

The other day I was deleting email and trying to clean old voice messages off my iPhone. I got to a certain point with the messages when I reached a number of them left by my mom. It wasn’t a surprise. I knew they were there. I haven’t deleted them, because it’s still a connection to her. My mom died two years ago today.
 It’s nothing morbid like Norman Bates keeping his mother petrified in the cellar. For me, it is a way to still hear her voice, not in my head, but on my phone. The moment I don a dress, a wig and start hanging out around showers, someone needs to take my phone away. 

I don’t play the messages very often. It is comforting just knowing they are there. I have listened a few times and mostly they make me smile. It’s because I can laugh at the character my mom was. There were times she left messages I call “nasty-grams.”

These were left when she had reached my voice mail and was frustrated because she wasn’t reaching me in real time. When she wanted something she wanted it then. I’ve inherited my impatience from my mom.

This is an actual message - “Vince this Mom, do ever answer that damn telephone. I always have to talk to nothing! I want to tell you, I don’t know if you know by now, but I am out of Hershey’s Kisses. I only have four or five left. By the time I eat them tonight, I won’t have any tomorrow, so would you please get me some. I hope you hear me. I don’t know where you are or what you’re doing. Nobody ever tells me anything anymore….so goodbye.” (forceful hang-up)

The key words in her nasty-gram were Hershey’s Kisses. My mom in the last few years before her death, had determined that a Hershey’s Kiss was the ultimate treat, dessert and medical remedy. She had to have some everyday or withdrawals would begin.

In listening to the saved messages, ninety-five percent of them are related to her need for the almighty Kisses. She needed them, she wanted them and she had to have them.  Life at Shady Lane, the long-term care facility where she resided, would would be askew until the the Hershey’s were delivered.

As my mom aged, she became more and more particular about the food she ate, and what she could tolerate. It became a chore to figure what would provide nutrition and what she’d allow to pass her lips. She had issues with her stomach. If she ate something and thought it gave her a digestion issue, it was off her list of edible food. By age eighty-nine, most food items were finding their way onto the ‘cannot eat’ list.

It was a constant dance between us - making sure she was stocked, running out of supply and how quickly I could replenish them. For some reason, only she could comprehend, the Hershey’s Kiss miraculously settled her stomach. They replaced Imoduim. Kisses should now be on everyone’s drug formulary.

As I was reminded in many of the messages, they were the only dessert she could eat, and she liked to put some out for the “girls” (Nurses and CNA’s). Everyone went to Mrs. Sparks’ room to get their sugar fix. I would buy an industrial size box of York Peppermint Patties from Costco for the staff, hoping the Kisses would be just for mom. Loretta was into share-and-share-alike, so all candy was on the table.

Mom was like a crooked politician. She felt that some sugary bribes would get her better treatment. I guess in a sticky fingered way it did. It certainly gave her notoriety. She was the “Candylady” and I was the supplier - the “Candyman.”

The demand for Kisses increased as she began to eat less and less of the meals coming from Shady Lane’s kitchen. I was worried about her blood sugar levels. She certainly didn’t need diabetes, since she was already dealing with congestive heart failure. I would advise her to go slowly on the Kisses, but I forgot that she needed a daily dose for medicinal purposes. A Kiss a day kept irritable bowel away.

All those messages.! I spent many afternoons visiting my mom at the nursing home, to make sure she had what she needed. I would get home only to find another message alert on my phone.

“Vincey (what mom always called me) this is mother, I forgot to tell you I’m low on Hershey’s Kisses. The girl just came and and took a few so that only leaves me enough for another day. Please pick up some for me. I reaaallllyyyy need them,” in a plea of desperation. ‘Click’ end of message. 

It was frustrating and I would get angry. I had just visited her and the calculated inventory supplies indicated she’d be stocked for a few days, but Kisses disappeared faster than audience members at a David Copperfield show.  I’d think, “does she realize how much her chocolate habit costs and how many trips I’ve make to Target this month?” 

I was buying the large “Party Size” bag of Kisses. It’s a forty-ounce bag that holds approximately 250 pieces of the silver foiled treasure. The amount of Kisses she was going through in the course of a month was astounding. I was surprised she wasn’t in a candy coma. Just thinking about it made my blood sugar rise.

I’d go through a mental debate every time I received one of her requests for backup. Should I just stop buying Hershey’s Kisses and watch their stock plummet, or should I just let a woman in her eighties have the one thing that made her happy? People started to think I worked at Target.

Placing a parent in a nursing home is never easy. They have to pare down their personal belongings to a minimum and they lose their independence. Most significantly they are separated from family. Still, there are a many reasons why a nursing home becomes the only viable option for a loved one.

For my mom, going into Shady Lane was the best thing for her health issues and well-being. In fact, I believe my mom thrived in that setting because of consistent medical care, socialization and Hershey Kisses.

I visited my mom at least two or three times a week. Sometimes more if I was making a delivery. It wasn’t a conscious decision – I just did it. Sometimes the messages from her made me mad, because I felt that I was doing all that I could. The issue of supply and demand was precarious.

As I look back now, I realize that the Kisses were more than just a craving and a continuous snack. They satisfied two needs for my mom. They provided a comfort in a world that had become minimalized and a connection to me - the “Candyman.”

I don’t know if she ate as many as it appeared, or if she was throwing them out to other residents like it was Mardi Gras. I do know the continual need for more was a guarantee that I’d be back to see her. It was her way of orchestrating an ongoing need for my visits.

I don’t think she ever felt that I wouldn’t visit her, but I do think there was a fear of being alone. It was easier to call and ask for another two tons of candy than it was for her to say she was lonely. There was pride at stake. She was the mother and I was the son. Faced with aging, failing health and her own mortality, she still needed to feel a sense of control.

She wanted that familial closeness to be able to hold my hand. People surrounded her everyday and took her privacy away, so she wanted to grasp something that was hers. We formed a new bond over Hershey’s Kisses. I could show my love, caring and support by arriving with those little pieces of milk chocolate wrapped in silver.

When my mom passed away, my sister and I thought it was a fitting tribute to forgo the single flower mourners place upon the casket, and have everyone place a Hershey’s Kiss in remembrance. We brought a basket filled with the candy, and although the Funeral Director looked at us strangely, I knew my mom was smiling. She knew she had some sweet bribes to get her through ‘the gates’.

All the messages on my phone are now my treats. I now think of all the trips to the candy aisle from a different perspective. Those “Party Size” bags were filled with love and an enduring connection. Now, when I see a Hershey’s Kiss they are not a piece of candy, they are a symbol of my mom. They are a remembrance – a moment of sweetness. Kisses from heaven!


  1. A very loving tribute with a humorous touch.

  2. This was the most beautiful tribute to a mom that I have ever read. Thank you, Vince, for sharing this with us.


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