Yesterday would have been my Mom's 66th birthday. In one week, she'll be gone from my life for six years. The longer she's gone doesn't make grasping the reality of her absence any more fathomable. Last week I devoted a good amount of time to going through the last of her boxes. Boxes she had packed full over the years with memories and artifacts. Pieces of our life as a family. I looked at and spent time with everything. I cried some, but mostly I smiled and laughed. She was a great Mom, and my brother and I were pretty great and grateful kids. It felt pleasing to know she must have known that. I felt joy that she died knowing that she was loved and that she made us feel loved. Of course, the not so subtle reminder in this is to love, hug and tell the ones important to you that they are. Today. Tomorrow. The next day too.
Also take the time to write letters. Letter writing has become a lost art, but it doesn't have to be. It shouldn't be. There were so many memories captured in the letters I sent my Mom when we were apart. Recollections I had forgotten, and flashbacks still there burning bright. Feelings expressed. When you read someone's letter, you hear their voice. It summons forth a surprisingly strong connection. It's powerful. I read a poem Mr. K. wrote for me about my love of his bunny, Fanny. I hadn't heard his voice since I was a young girl of 10 or 11, but I hadn't forgotten its tone, tenor or cadence. Likewise, I found a letter Mrs. K. wrote my Mom. Her kind, lilting voice came back to me, and for a minute I was her sidekick again...following her from bird feeder to bird feeder and then straight into her kitchen for a bowl of chocolate ice cream and a play date with Fanny. Letters capture much more than our words. They capture a piece of us - our stories - that live on after we have left.
Pictures too. They are so much more than images. They are feelings. They embody emotions, perceptions and attitudes. The other day I found an old picture of the Humboldt Avenue compound. That yard was its own magical world. I stopped there on a bit of a whim yesterday with the Kirkpatrick's voices still ringing in my head. I was driving by on my way home from communing with Kathy's Gals. The property is weathered and unkempt now. Forbidding and foreboding. No Trespassing and Beware of Dogs signs line the ramshackle gate. There is no more koi pond, or iris lined, cobblestone walk This is no longer a welcoming happy place. I couldn't even see any of the houses buried they were in a sea of bramble and brier. In the time it took me to take a couple pictures from the safety of the sidewalk, someone saw me allright. He approached my car arms flailing and anger apparent. I still cannot believe I didn't have the sudden sense to speed away. I sat there stunned and allowed this character to engage me. Luckily, I had the wherewithal to lock my door and censor my words. Things have really changed at our old river compound leaving me all the more appreciative for that little nugget of a photo to remind me of what we once had there.
All and all, yesterday was a good one. Church and Father Tim were certain elixirs of the day, and time with friends and family who knew, cared for and still care for my Mom a much needed lifeline. That's another little tidbit: ask for and receive comfort. Cradle the outstretched hand, accept the Kleenex, say thank you for the coffee and the scone, listen the the stories, toast togetherness, celebrate the connections that bind you to others and honor them for who they were, who they are and whatever richness they bring to your life today. We all just want to matter. And to live a good life. A meaningful life. I assert that a good life is a meaningful life. I attempt no definition of the word meaningful either. There are likely 101. Who am I kidding...there are infinite answers, but the one truth is that we need people no matter what or how long our life's journey is. While we are here, there are countless paths we travel, but we all arrive in the same place one day. It's nice not to arrive alone.