I’m a little late on catching up… things are still hectic around here! Briefly: the house is still on the market, baby #3 is still baking, Oliver developed a bad wheezing cough that led to an aerosol treatment at the doctor’s office and an inhaler for a week, and today Andrew had a fever. It’s getting hard to keep up with everything; I may be spreading myself too thin but I can’t quit now. There is a yellow Post-it square taped on my parents’ computer desk, written in my mother’s angled cursive, that says, “If God leads you to it, He will lead you through it.” So through it I go.
Easter was bittersweet—our first holiday without my mom. As a distraction, my dad, my sisters, my brother, and one of my aunts (my dad’s youngest sister) went crazy on spoiling Oliver and Andrew. So they each received FIVE BIG BASKETS, mostly full of things like cars and outside toys (since everyone knows I’m anti-candy, lol) but also some chocolate, plus some bigger items from my dad. My oldest sister, who hosted us all at her house, even put together an egg hunt for them. They loved it! And it helped the rest of us, too. There is nothing so true to my mom’s memory as watching her grandsons’ little faces light up with excitement. I am grateful that everyone made it a special day for them as a way of carrying on her love.
While George and my dad took the boys outside to run off some of their
candy energy, the rest of us sat down to watch a dvd created from old movie film clips taken by my grandpa. It’s amazing to have these images of our family so many years later, to see our grandparents and parents so much younger than we remember them! First was footage of the Queen Elizabeth ship: my great-grandmother, who lived in England until she married, took the whole family to England with her one year. (I believe it was 1969. Unfortunately my mom missed out on that trip because my sister Jennifer was only about 6 months old.) The recorded clips went backwards through time, with my sister Jennifer as a baby, then my oldest sister Debbie. There was no sound on the old film so we all filled in with comments and stories and laughs.
Then suddenly the film cut to my mother walking down the aisle at her wedding, and we all went silent.
She was nineteen years old when she married her first husband (my sisters’ dad)… so beautiful and young and happy. It’s hard to reconcile that day with the present. They cut their wedding cake, blissfully ignorant that one day she would wash his work clothes and, by statistically unbelievable bad luck, a toxic fiber inhaled during that everyday act would later cut her life short with a rare and horrible disease. But on their wedding day, she was perfectly healthy. It was still possible at THAT moment for her to be alive in THIS moment… and yet it wasn’t. We watched quietly, greedy for every detail of that beloved face.
“She’s always smiling and laughing,” my sister observed gently. “All the time. Smiling and laughing.”
Her dark curly hair painstakingly straightened according to the style of the mid- to late 1960′s, my mother’s eyes crinkled shut with laughter and then she turned shyly away from the camera, still smiling, and at that moment I suddenly saw MY resemblance to her for the first time. My appearance and my personality are almost entirely like my father’s; but that most sparkling and sincere emotion, happiness, looks on me just like it did on her. If that is the only trait I inherited from her, it was the best. And now it’s Oliver’s as well.
Watching those films didn’t make us miss her any less. Everyone wiped away tears. Mom should still be here, we were all thinking. It’s not fair. I want her back.
But seeing her was also a reminder to be happy. That’s how we remember her, and that’s how we keep her with us.
And through it we continue to go.