The Antique Iron Bed, a Source of Comfort

When my husband and I were first married, we didn’t own any furniture.  We lived in furnished apartments for a few years and purchased a home when my husband was a resident at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.  Residents don’t make much money and our house was furnished with hand-me-downs.  My mother and father-in-law gave us an antique, wrought-iron bed to help out.

The bed was white and had small, fleur-de-lis decorations.  These were nice, but the most unusual part of the bed was the mattress, which had a picture of a bed bug in the middle and the words vermin proof.  I told my husband I had married him for better or worse, but not for the vermin-proof mattress.  We bought a new mattress and box spring from a local factory.

The bed has been with us through every move.  I slept in it when I was pregnant with my elder daughter.  Years later, after we bought bedroom furniture, we gave the bed to her and she used it for years.   She grew up, went to college, married and had fraternal twins.  Though we thought of giving her the bed, we kept it for our guest room.

Despite its age, the bed was probably the most comfortable one in the house.  Guests who slept in it always had a good night’s sleep.  We renovated the bathroom to create a guest suite and I bought a white night stand and new blue and white bedding.  The room looked like a picture in a magazine.

Fast-forward to 2007, the year my elder daughter died from the injuries she received in a car crash.  In response to this tragedy, my former son-in-law moved into the twins’ house and agreed to live with them until they graduated from high school.  He lived there for nine months and then died from the injuries he received in a car crash.

The twins moved in with us and we were appointed as their guardians.  My grandson sleeps in his mother’s wood-frame bed with an electronically controlled mattress.  My granddaughter sleeps in the antique iron bed and uses her mother’s antique chest of drawers.  A few weeks ago, she told us the mattress sagged so badly she couldn’t sleep.  “I love my cozy bed!” she exclaimed.

We promised to buy her a new mattress and box spring.  When we did the math, we realized the mattress and box spring were 52 years old.  Could it be?  During our marriage, we lived in many states, and finally returned to Rochester, Minnesota, my husband’s home town.  As we had done decades ago, we purchased a mattress and box spring from the local factory.

Thank goodness the factory is still in business, because all of the brand-name mattresses and box springs are too large, and the set had to be custom-made.  Though the mattress is still a bit hard, my granddaughter loves her cozy bed.  “Grandpa and I bought you a new mattress and box spring because you love the bed,” I explained.  “When you leave us, you may want to take it with you.”  My granddaughter didn’t say anything, yet I could see what she was thinking.

Linking items – a loved one’s shirt, favorite chair, or bed – can comfort mourners.  Grief experts call these items “transitional objects.”  My granddaughter misses her mother and she will always miss her.  But I think she feels close to her mother when she curls up, snuggles under the quilt, and goes to sleep in her cozy bed.

Harriet Hodgson

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Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 38 years, is the author of 36 books, and thousands of print/Internet articles. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. In 2007 four of her family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling), and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and recovery, and she is the author of eight grief resources. Hodgson has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, dozens of blog talk radio programs, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website, and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, hospice, grief, and caregiving conferences. Hodgson’s work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy wife, grandmother, author and family caregiver, please visit www.harriethodgson.com.

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