"she's somebody's hero."jamie o'neal
My mother died in January 2014. Arriving at January 2015 is strange.
An entire year without her. Not a few weeks, or a summer. One full calendar year. A lot of life happens in twelve months. As I've looked back, sat still and walked forward reflecting on her life and it's living impact on mine, one of the most important things I know today is that it matters.
What matters? It. All of it. Any of it.
The holiday traditions, the budget meal plans, the talks in the car while drinking milkshakes (okay, and french fries), the little notes and texts, the huge surprise parties, the late-nights, early-mornings, and all-days, the disagreeing and the understanding, the quiet things and the loud things, the soccer games, laundry loads, math help, electricity that turns on, the bedtime stories, the Disney-vacations that took two years and lots of eBay-ing to save up for, the potato chips and french onion dip, the tears during "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," the laughing to Seinfeld, the basketball games, the baseball games, the slumber games, the ABC-I-Spy-games in the car, the questions, the answers, the silence, the hugs, the sunshine, the rain, the mess, the order, the dirty barefeet and the brand-new 50% off shoes, the cheese in the pasta, the missing forks in the yard, the broken dishes, the softest kisses, the commitment to connection, the depression, the absolute honesty, the midnight home projects to catch a break, the stains in the carpet, the granola bar breakfasts and the bacon, eggs and french toast breakfasts, the minivan rides, the sideline, the bedroom, the toilets, the hospital floor, the birthdays and keep-them-alive-days, the moon, the pain, the crazy, the sane, the everything. It all.
She died on Wednesday and her memorial service was Saturday. On Wednesday I didn't have a single picture scanned or sorted. By Saturday there was a (woefully inadequate) 28-minute slideshow of her life. Those three days were a blur of flipping through thousands of (our life) photographs, scanning them in, sorting them in folders, arranging them in a timeline, adding music, and trying to somehow give the dear folks sitting in the church an idea of all the "its."
So many pictures and chunks of our life were missed. And many of the images don't have her in them. But it was so on purpose. If she wasn't in the picture, she took the picture. And it gives me her eyes. Some little moment, on one day of her life -- maybe a lovely beach vacation day, or maybe regular living room day, meant enough to her to make the effort, to pull out the camera. Maybe her quiet toddler boy was being especially chatty and he just looked too cute? I don't know. I know stories for many of the pictures, but not all of them. And I'll never get the chance to ask (besides, she likely wouldn't have remembered all of them either), but I know it mattered. I know it mattered enough to make sure film was in the slot, and batteries worked, and the camera was found and a picture was taken, developed, and picked up three days later. It mattered enough.
She told me that one of the best days of her life was my wedding. "I just watched you all day. You were so happy. You didn't eat, even though you think you did. You just smiled and talked and were... happy. There isn't anything better to watch." She let me be dumb and tell her about my wedding colors when I was in middle-school. She would chime in about how she still loves the "Tahoe Blue" dresses her girls wore. I don't know, she just didn't make me feel stupid. My joy was hers, but it was never "about her." She held me when I cried about the other boys, and this boy too at certain points, but let me go when it was his turn. She taught us how to help our baby work through bad gas, and she gave him back to us to let us try. The new boy and the wedding and the baby wouldn't have mattered very much if my favorite bedtime story, 42 questions about nothing, and "helpful" nights in the kitchen learning how to cook hadn't mattered as well. "How do you climb a mountain? One step at a time." It all mattered to her, she noticed the itty bits, she as the definition of "present."
I wish I could have had more time, I wish I could have added more detail, shown more of the other kids, but this is my three-day-whole-hearted summary of the things, events and people my mom loved with her soul. She would go back to any of these moments. So we "go back" by remembering, by taking time to do it. (I'm not sure if it'd be boring to you. It's everything to me. And one of my favorite things to watch when I start to wonder "Am I making a difference? What's the point? Why am I here?")