I remember how she smiled. It never quite reached her eyes. She’d stand back, arms folded across her crew neck sweatshirt. She’d watch the joy escaping through a little girl’s butterfly knees as they bounced up and down on Christmas morning.
And we couldn’t be mad at her for dying. We couldn’t be mad at her for dying.
Those moments when she held us close without ever holding us at all, those were the ones we had to keep. Most of our lives will be built not on holding her tight but dwelling on the faith she had in us.
It’s what happens when you lose someone young.
It’s what happens when you sit in the hearse and explain the folds and the sequins of the turquoise dress they buried her in. And why the flashers are on. And why the kids standing outside for a fire drill are staring and pointing at the limo passing by.
It’s what happens when you’ve got to be the biggest kid in a silent black car.
And you’ve got to stand in front of a couple hundred strangers, tell ‘em all that, “you never met that woman, but darling didn’t she already love you like that girl on Christmas morning? Darling, wouldn’t she have squeezed you in your candy cane pajamas?”
She would have.
I can’t be sure what happens when people pass away too soon. I can’t be confident whether we would’ve met this other side of them where they weren’t so caring, but I’d like to pretend that wasn’t true. I’d like to pretend, because the truth is, we get to imagine it.
We get to carry their words, their lessons, their photographs, in our pockets.
We get to hold onto them when we need strength. When getting up in the morning feels heavier. When pushing through the day seems unbearable. We get to hold onto those words and those lessons when we’re lost and we’re just plain lucky.
That’s what I wanted those strangers to know. They were just plain lucky to have her words in their back pockets.