“I woke up this morning and all that kept going through my head was ‘everywhere I go, I love you so,’ and I knew I had to call you,” my aunt gleefully relayed with a giggle.
I laughed too as I thought about my debut album from over thirty-five years ago. She was referring to a song I had written when I was five years old. My mom had recorded it on a cassette tape and given a copy to her only sister to enjoy. It was that stellar performance that came into her head that morning, and we both laughed at the sweet remembrance.
“You know, I guess you’re the only one…” as my voice cracked with emotion my sentence broke off abruptly.
I collected myself and tried again.
“You’re the only one still alive who remembers me at that age,” I finally managed to get out.
We ended up talking on the phone for another 45 minutes. We didn’t have anything in particular to discuss, nothing exciting or worth writing home about, so to speak, but our conversation lingered along as we discussed mundane details, wall border, and other uninspiring topics. Yet it was wonderful. When I hung up the phone I smiled with contentment for the privilege of relationship with someone I held so dear. Life had dealt me the kind of hand where I understood loss. It had caused me to appreciate more those who remained on this earth with me.
As I got to work this morning and looked at the date on the computer it hit me that today was my mother’s birthday. I realized quickly that had she still been alive she would be 64 years old today. And then it hit me that she had been gone for ten years.
The weight of time took my breath away. The gap between the age of her death and my own current age were not that far apart. The thought crossed my mind that if I were to die as young as my mother, I would only have thirteen more years left on this earth. When I thought of all the things that remained that I still wanted to see, do, experience, and impact, that seemed like a terribly short amount of years. Imagine if you only had a little over a decade left of life? How would that change how you loved each day?
It’s an easy answer. You would cherish each moment and not take a single experience or relationship for granted.
I think the saddest thing we can go through is not the death of a loved one, but the thought of not fully enjoying the time you had with them. Hindsight is a cruel thing sometimes. I try to not have regret in life, because what good does that do? But if I’m honest I have to admit that so many times when I think of my mother I wish I could have loved her harder. I wish I could have forgiven her quicker. In my teens and early twenties, I wasted so much time harboring anger towards her over minuscule matters that mean not a thing to me now. If I could take back that selfish, missed time over the years I would pack it all together and take us on a trip to the beach. I would hold her hand as we walked along the seashore. I would laugh deeply at her crass jokes, I would soak up her smile even as she shyly tried to cover her mouth with her hand like she tended to do. I would say, “I love you, Momma,” cause I’ve decided you can’t say that enough.
There’s not many days that go by that I don’t look at my beautiful daughters and wish she could be a part of their lives.
There’s not many weeks that go by that I don’t have something terrible, wonderful, or all of the above happen, and wish that I could pick up the phone and share it with her.
There’s many moments where I look at my purple stethoscope, purple water cup, or purple earrings and know that my favorite color was her favorite color too, and that’s just one of the many similarities we share.
Talking to my aunt reminded me that when my mom passed away there was a lot that passed away with her. For the first seven years of my life, it was just us. Many times I see my young girls do something in particular and I wonder, did I do that as a baby? But there’s no one who can answer that question for me. It’s a small thing, in the grand scheme, but also another reminder of how precious knowledge and memories are.
As a woman who has lost her mother, and has her own moments where she wishes she could turn back time, I would say, appreciate your mother while you still can. Don’t wait until they’re gone to realize how precious the moments you shared together were. I look back on simple moments just sitting together in the living room, curled under a blanket, watching a movie. What I wouldn’t give to have half an hour of that. I would take in her every feature and commit it to memory. I would say the things I never had the humility to utter. I would simply soak in our togetherness, something I took for granted. Perhaps I would ask the questions that I never thought I’d need to know until it was too late. I would certainly appreciate the time I had with her, that I can’t get back now.
Don’t wait until Mother’s Day to send your mom a card. Call her now, go by for an impromptu visit, and tell her how much you love her while you still can.