When yesterday’s mail arrived, it held a precious gift. A plain manila envelope with my name and address written on it in bold, black sharpie. It wasn’t the book I was expecting, or another bill. I opened the envelope to discover, quite simply, a treasure. A distant relative had come across about a dozen photos of my mother as a young girl, I’d guess from the ages of thirteen to twenty and she sent them along to me. Just like that.
These moments for me are like small miracles.
My mother (born and raised here in Morristown) lost her battle with breast cancer more than 23 years ago. I was seventeen at the time and was just beginning to ripen into the age where you begin to understand your mother as a person and not only your mom. I wasn’t quite there yet when that door shut. And my relationship with my mother never had the chance to progress to the stage where I knew her as a friend, as a human being, separate from me, with hopes and dreams and fears, as a person filled with humor, a steadfast friend, a woman passing through life’s different stages. I think when I lost her, I lost a way to identify myself. It was up to me to find my role models at various times who would shape my life. It made me strong in ways that made me hard and compassionate in ways that only those who experience loss can truly comprehend.
When I went on my first Avon 3 Day Breast Cancer Walk, I had asked her friends and family to write me letters of the person they knew. Here were stories of my mother as a teenage friend, an aunt, a neighbor, a wife. I saw her many faces reflected in the words of those whose lives she touched. I even had a friend who never had the chance to meet her write. She told me of how she knew my mother through my reflection. It was one of the most meaningful letters I received.
You see, as much as we can go through our everyday lives thinking there is always more, the fact is, we have limited time together. When that time is up, there is no more. No amount of money can buy a single second and oceans of tears can’t turn back time. At a certain point there are no more memories to be made, the armful of memories you carry become all there is, and you hold your breath for awhile, careful not to let any fall to the ground.
I opened that envelope yesterday and it was like gold. These were images of my mother that I had never before seen. To have discovered something new about a woman I loved so dearly and lost more than two decades ago was nothing short of a blessing. I looked long and hard into the teenage face of my mother, trying to understand a little bit more about her through this photo that was left behind, for me to be given, across the ocean of a lifetime. I felt like even though I wasn’t even born when the shutter captured her image, I was standing right there, in that moment, absorbing her spirit.
So, I say this to you my friends, there is sweetness to be savored in every moment. Your relationships are precious, treat them as such. And if you do nothing else… just live with awareness. Cherish these days.
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