“Look closely at the present you are constructing: it should look like the future you are dreaming.”
~ Alice Walker
I sit down, in front of my mother-in-love’s wheelchair while Gerry goes in search of a tissue, and lean in. Before I can open my mouth to inquire how she’s feeling on this day she looks up at me and speaks: “Have you seen Stan?”
I remind her gently that he passed away peacefully nine months ago, and the countenance of this stoic woman changes ever so slightly as she takes it in. Again.
She inquires, not infrequently, about her husband of 73 years. What must it be like for her to learn, over and over as if it’s the first time, that he’s gone?
Some things—many things, really—in this life are not easy; in fact they’re downright harsh. Many other things are beautiful and sweet and those far outshine and outnumber the painful ones.
Like the legacy left behind by a son gone too soon.
Like pink carnations brought by another son in honour of, what would have been, a 74th wedding anniversary.
Like still another son, gently wiping chocolate from his mother’s mouth causing her to smile and joke about biting him.
Like a daughter who travels far, and frequently, to visit a mother for what might be the last time every time.
Like a woman who raised a fine family, whose body and mind are fading, but who is no less treasured and respected by those who love her.
Later, as we are driving the hour and a half trip back home through a raging rainstorm, I think about the lessons I’ve gleaned from my mother-in-love, not so much from words of wisdom as through the example of her life and the lives of her children who cherish and honour her.
I wish I had had the privilege of knowing her sooner, but that would have meant a whole other life and it wasn’t to be that way. I wonder if I would have appreciated, or even understood, the lessons I now see so clearly or if I would have bristled against them believing, as many of us do in our youth, that I had all the answers I need.
As Gerry continues to drive through the relentless rain I sink into gratitude for what is, and wonder if I might be in the process of teaching, through the example of my life, lessons that will be thought of long after I’m gone from this place.
I am, of course. We all are. That gives me hope and it also scares me a little. Mostly it settles within me the desire to live the kind of life that matters—not the self-focused “best life” that’s touted in modern pop psychology but a God-focused life that honours the Creator, shines light where there is darkness, and makes the journey a bit gentler for someone else along the way.
One simple happy day at a time.