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Special Memories of a Final Thanksgiving Meal

Danielle and Gabrielle Hall lost their mother, Martha Hall, to breast cancer in 2003. The sisters say their last Thanksgiving meal together with her revealed the holiday's true meaning.

"Mom was amazing," Gabrielle Hall said.

Danielle added, "She was determined and strong and intense and good at everything she did more than anybody else's mom that I knew."

"She's still better than everybody else's mom we know," Gabrielle said. The sisters laughed at the thought.

Danielle remembered the time that her mother sent her a poem. It said, "If you're having a bad day, bake a cake. And if it's still bad, put on a red dress."

After Martha Hall first went to the hospital, Danielle said, "I went out and bought a red skirt."

Gabrielle said she gave her mother a pair of red shoes, "and she would wear her red shoes to the chemotherapy. And she'd tell everybody there that you can't have a bad day if you're wearing red shoes."

"I just wish that I could remember her healthy," Gabrielle said.

The sisters remembered Martha Hall at the head of the table at her last meal, on Thanksgiving 2003. She was wearing pajamas and had an IV pole. She had battled cancer for 14 years, and after days of not being able to, Martha Hall ate.

She died 10 days later, at the age of 54.

Gabrielle said the experience "shifted our whole perspective of Thanksgiving, that we really had stuff to be thankful about. That we had Mom."

"The last time I saw her," Danielle said, "I had been telling her that we were going to be OK ... and we would take care of everybody, but she had done everything she could to teach us and love us and raise us. And it was time for her to let go ... that we loved her and she'd always be with us. "

Gabrielle and Daniele recorded their StoryCorps interview in 2005, when Danielle visited her sister in San Francisco for Thanksgiving.

"Before we eat, we will go around and say what we are thankful for — and it's not something minor," Gabrielle said. "Thanksgiving's a good time for us to remember."

This year, though they won't be together on the holiday, Danielle and Gabrielle Hall will remember their mother by wearing red shoes on Thanksgiving.

Produced for Morning Edition by Nadia Reiman with Michael Garofalo.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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