I know two little girls who are burying their mother today.
Well, I don’t really know them and I didn’t really know their mother, either. She was in the same group of friends as me when we lived in the Upstate. We enjoyed one another’s company and chatted in that friendly, “how ya been?” kind of way.
She’d had cancer for some time. She’d been in and out of treatment and tests always waiting for it to reoccur. Then it did and this time there was no treatment.
Our friends have rallied around that family for a long time. They’ve cooked meals and cared for the girls and given spa days and date nights and dinner parties to show that family just how loved they are. Charlie and I have been absent for five years but I keep up with that crowd through Facebook. It’s been over a year since I last saw Joyce.
This morning I’m wondering about her girls. I know people will say, “thank God she isn’t sick anymore,” and I wonder if those girls will agree. I know people will say, “she loved you both,” and I wonder if they’ll believe it.
I wonder what I’d want people to say to Hollie at my funeral. Especially if I left her now, before she’s become a woman, before high school has tested her and some boy has broken her heart. I wonder what people should tell her when they know she won’t have her mom to help her get dressed for her wedding or get ready for a new baby.
I think I’d like for her to hear this:
I loved you before I even knew you were coming. I loved you because I loved your daddy and being his wife made me proud. Sharing you with him has been the greatest joy of my life.
I loved you when you were helpless and needy and waking me up in the middle of the night. When you didn’t have the words to explain what you wanted and you tantrummed and screamed and misbehaved.
There were moments when I got so angry with you that I had to walk away. It’s called justifiable rage and you’ve felt it, too. I walked away because I loved you.
I loved you when you made silly jokes and when your laughter hit that spontaneous note, the one I imagined bursting into bubbles and fairies and dandelion seeds on the breeze. I loved you when you sang and danced along with whatever you were watching on TV. I loved you in costumes and pajamas and dressed up for the daddy-daughter dance.
I loved you when you said you wanted to be a writer and an entrepreneur and when you asked if that would leave time for also being a rock star. I loved you playing cards and eating chicken nuggets at Beef O’Brady’s and riding in the front seat of Brandi on the way to school.
For every minute of my life I’ve loved you and that love has changed me. It’s made me a better person. It’s made me want to be a better person. It’s made me want so many things.
And I want to be here with you. Forever. But I can’t be. And that’s got to be okay.
You’ve got to be okay.
No amount of time with you would ever be enough. So the time I was granted, that has to be okay.
The most important things my Hollie needs to know I wouldn’t be around to teach her. I’d depend on the people in her life to remind her of them. Here they are so you’ll all know what I want her to hear every single day:
- You are loved.
- You are exactly who you’re supposed to be and you are wonderful.
- Be yourself. Always.
- Have ambition. Let it lead you, let it motivate you, but don’t let it consume you.
- Love wastefully. You’ll never run out and the hurt is always worth it.
When I think of those girls knowing these were the last few months they would have with Joyce, I imagine them snuggling with her and breathing her in. The way all of us moms hold our babies tight and breathe them in.
No amount of time is ever enough. But it’s what we get. I have resolved to be grateful for it and to make the most of it. That’s the only thing I can do for Joyce now and the lesson I’m so glad she taught me.
Thank you, Joyce. Rest in peace, sweet lady. You will be missed.