Thursday, June 3, 2010

What she left behind

Today would have been my mom's 63rd birthday.  As usual, I stayed up too late, so I met the day as soon as it arrived.  When we wake up in the morning, we're going to celebrate.  The boys have been brainstorming about things to do.  They were clear about one thing, though: Grandma Lynn needs a cake. 

So a cake it is. 

All three of them were out on the deck today (yesterday?), painting pictures on yellow construction paper for Grandma Lynn.  They were so matter-of-fact.  It was Grandma's birthday, so they were painting her pictures on her favorite color.  No strangeness about her death, just a sense of connection that I never would have dreamed they could have.  Jack drew a picture of them walking together, which touched me so deeply that it felt like pain through my core. 

Our life has shifted so much since my mom died.  Being there, watching her life leave her body, changed me in ways I can't begin to describe.  There's this pure sense of what life really means to me.  How much we have to squeeze into this time we have on life, and how things need to matter if they're going to absorb time or energy.  Clearing out the clutter - draining friendships, meaningless belongings, yardwork.  :)  Deciding we're going to move into Sandbridge for the off-season.  Just plunk ourselves into a furnished seasonal rental that forces us to move in the summer.  Cements the plans to just take off to every corner of the earth. 

Las Vegas this Christmas.  We already booked the room, invited the grandparents to meet us.  We're going to blow the roof off this lifetime, and Decembers in Midwest doesn't seem the way to do it (too cold!).  I've even got Steve on board for Costa Rica the next Christmas, hotel already chosen. ;)   Brazil the next?

Steve shakes his head with wonder at where his life is, but it's with this glow of anticipation.  Along with the surprise, there's a sense of awe.  We keep opening up new doors of opportunity and looking behind it, and finding entire new corridors.  This wasn't what we imagined when we married....it's so much bigger, so much better. 

Mom is in these plans. She's this voice inside of me, as I read through travel books, look at flights online.  Go for it! She's the canvas on which I'm painting this new life for our family.  And I remember so vividly that three-day drive home from her funeral, just gushing out emotion at Steve about what happened when I watched her die.  How none of the old stuff seemed to matter.  And all these new realizations came crashing into my life.  What I wanted to look back on, when I was lying there at the end. What she taught me and gave me. 

So here we are, a year and a half later.  We have changed in so many ways, but most of it - it's about becoming a more true version of ourselves.  The core of us didn't change, but our life is reflecting it more.  Part of me longs to just get her back for a few minutes, just to tell her thank you again.  For all she taught me living, how much she inspires me even now.   

Sometimes, like leading up to today, I think about how to honor her in special ways.  What to have for dinner on her birthday.  What special thing I can do with the kids.  And then I think about all these little moments along the way that point back to her. That honor her, just in the way we're living.  I remember the picnics with my parents at that little pond off 40th Street.  How that made me feel.  And it's why I pack up picnics and venture out with my own 3 little ones. 

I am now on the other side of her experience.  All those childhood memories that waft over me, now I'm The Mom.  And I appreciate so much more what she did for us.  How hard they worked to give us experiences and moments.  All those conversations where she never seemed to tire of my questions.  How they gave us such a sense of family.

I don't think we need to hike in Costa Rica to capture that for our children, but creating those memories...creating that sense of family...that seems to be the most authentic way to honor my mom.  As a person, and her motherhood.  And that's about every day choices and paths we take, not just one or two days out of the year.

I wonder often about what I'm leaving for my children, and on some frazzled days I get concerned about what that might look like.  I'm too rushed or too messy or I forget someone's lunch.  But what I see from my mom, from what it means to lose someone, is that you get to keep the most authentic parts of the relationship.  Not just the messy peripheral things from all the external stresses.  But who someone really is...what they value...that stays with their loved ones. 

I really like what she left behind.

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