Last night I went to my cousin’s house to pick up some items from my grandmother’s estate. Most of those items were pictures that someone (or several someones) had culled from the piles of photo albums and frames and boxes and placed aside for me . And I can’t express how grateful I am to the people who did the work, stored the stuff, and made sure that it got to me.
Because among the pictures of me, and my kids, and my ex-husband that are in the box there are dozens of pictures of my mother that I haven’t seen before. I am a bit awe struck.
See my Mom has been gone for just over eleven years now. (I know. I know. I have written too many post that touch on this. I am a sentimental idiot deep down.)
But a funny thing happens when people die. Those first months and maybe even years you remember exactly what their voice sounded like. You can see their face in dozens of different vibrant memories. You have to remind yourself they won’t be on the other end of the phone when you reach to call them because of a piece of news or a joke you think they would like. You see them in the faces of random people in the grocery store or at the gas station. You associate a memory of them with literally everything. These things take your breath away with how very real they are.
But as those years pass, without even knowing it their voice fades. You can’t remember their laugh. And while you retain memories, their numbers are far fewer. You stop associating them with things. You have more and more experiences where they don’t even come to your mind. You don’t reach to call them. You don’t see them everywhere. You realize the images in your head of this person who holds a part of your heart have been reduced to variations of the physical pictures you have.
As much as we like to think those we love are with us forever, in brutal reality, they do fade away. Slowly. But they fade. The emptiness is always there. The void is there. But you even start to forget about that. It is very much like growing old. The change happens so slowly you just accept the horror of it and keep going.
But those pictures… It is like she is sitting across the kitchen counter drinking her nasty instant coffee, telling me a story again. A new story we didn’t have time to share in the short time we had together. I see a smile I had forgotten. Feel a personality that had faded. Get back a piece of my heart I had forgotten I had lost.
Love. Smiles. Grief. Tears. Vibrant. Temporary. Life.
All in those pictures.
They are truly a gift.
I didn’t really know the woman in these pictures. I knew the woman she became. But that force, attitude, and spirit are there. Things that had dulled for me. Things that I missed. And today, I get to hold them in my hands.
I get new…more.. memories to share with my kids. More things that will make her just a little more real for them. More things that will give them some inkling of who she was. Something more than what they know now. Something more than Grandma is in Heaven.
I get new memories of an incredible lady. I get this new experience with my Mom. I never thought I would get that again.
I would trade everything in my world to hug my Mom one more time. I know I will never get that chance. But I got this. And it is a treasure. Incredible.