I’m cleaning out your room and I find it: A hand painted vase with styrofoam flowers tucked inside, the one you made in kindergarten for Mother’s Day. You liked it so much you “borrowed” it back after giving it to me.
As I sit on the edge of your bed and rub your back, you tell me real soft, “I’m so glad you’re my mama.” My eyes tear up in the dark, but you can’t see it.
You close your eyes and I want to bottle this moment. Stop the time. Let those words hang in the air a few more minutes.
How many more years until your bed is empty? How many more sunsets until you are sitting on the edge of your own child’s bed?
I try to stop time, make things go slower. I chop vegetables. Heat the soup. Answer a text. Shut off the timer.
The laundry list of chores piles up. A thousand things for a thousand days. Who will remember whether I folded the laundry that day? She will not.
But she will remember the stories we lived together, two souls who learned that writing a great life story means showing up to really live.
Ask any kid and they’ll tell you. Life’s grandest moments are really the smallest: the tickle monsters, the games of tag, the silly laughter, the quiet whispers. Kids always seem to teach us what matters in life. That the Sunday school answer is always Jesus. That great stories and kisses and I-love-you-to-the-moon-and-back truths makes all the bleeding knees hurt less.
I sauté the vegetables and chop the herbs. This is my life, but this is not what really matters in life. The laundry wrinkles in the dryer. Twenty years from now she won’t remember that.
We all know it’s true, but we forget to live it: The best gifts for mothers aren’t things at all, but the story we write together—by doing life together, by showing up for the things that matter.
All those things we buy at the big box store don’t mean what a hug at the end of the day can.
It’s a slow journey to say no to the to-do’s and yes to a thousand ways to love you. I’m learning it through a child’s eyes: Our love shouldn’t be a one-day-a-year thing but an all-year-long thing.
The best gift we can give is showing up for each other.
Forget the pile of dishes in the sink. Be present. Live a good story. Let the timer go off, the laundry sit unfolded, the emails pile up.
Do you know what a man would give for one more moment with their long gone child?
It’s only been two and a half years and I’ve already forgotten the details of life with my son: the feeding tubes, a dozen medications, the suction machines and seizures. It all seemed so worrisome at the time. Would he make it today? Would I?
I pull out an old journal entry and it all comes back—his hazel eyes, the way he’d grip my finger as if to say he’d never let me go. And I want to tell him, “I’d do it all again. I’d take you to dozens of medical appointments. I’d carry you up the stairs a thousand times. I’d change hundreds of dirty diapers. Every hour I spent with you wasn’t an inconvenience. It was priceless.”
Because our story, the one we stumbled through together, is what has made me stronger, braver, bolder. It taught me love in a thousand ways.
These stories we call life have made us and broken us, have healed and restored us. In all the mistakes and chaos and laughter—stories are the way we write our love.
I know this now. When we write our lives with love, we live better stories.
Love is always the better story.
All those things we think we will remember years from now? Uncle Richard’s bellowing laughter and Aunt Mary’s jello molds and Grandpa Harold’s fishing stories? These moments fly by and we ache for them later.
Before the memories fade, get the words down. Get it in on post-its and on phones and in print. Write it on slips of paper tucked in a drawer. Scribble it in dogeared journals with broken bindings. Tell your stories around campfires and card tables.
Because after the funeral ends, this is all we’ve got. Stories and memories and hope that there will be a new forever story.
Our stories—messy and ugly and imperfect—hold us together as one family. Sons and daughters and mamas and daddies, loving each other the best way we know how. Living a better story together. Showing up for one another.
Our stories are the invisible thread that keeps our souls tethered even when heaven and earth separate us, even as we wait for the new tomorrow.
(Coming Soon: More stories and tips on sharing YOUR story in the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day.)