appreciation, living and growing, mothers, photographs, remembering

Captured in a Photograph

I keep this picture of my mom on my desk. You can see her standing just outside of her front door. She’s leaning casually against the railing and there is a big smile on her face.

It’s one of my (many) favorite pictures of her. It personifies who she was and how she lived.

If you were someone she loved and you appeared at her door you would be greeted with an exclamation of how delighted she was to see you. Then she would hug and kiss you.

Sometimes she would be so excited to see you that she would forget to say hello. So a few minutes after your visit began, she would stop whatever she was doing, look at you and say ‘hello‘. I can still hear her, “Hello, Beth“. It was as if her excitement at seeing you got the best of her and when she started to calm down she would remember the importance of a traditional greeting. Of course, no one who received her warm welcome thought twice about her skipping the formal hello.

This picture captures how she loved. Behind the glass screen door is the front door but you can’t see it in the photo because it is wide open. That openness embodied how she loved. You were welcome anytime. The door to her heart was always open.

There are other things I’m reminded of when I look at this photo. She often looked younger than she really was. She dressed casually and it gave her a youthful look. She never quite mastered the art or desire of dressing up. And her hair….once a startling red….had dimmed to a soft brown. It never truly turned gray. All these things, along with her quick and easy smile made her approachable.

Her casual lean against the railing belied how her body felt. Her smile was genuine but her body was often uncomfortable and in pain. In the picture you wouldn’t guess it looking at her and that was just like her as well. She rarely complained and when she did she quickly felt badly both for burdening you with her struggle and for not being able to handle her discomfort without expressing it.

She felt weak when she complained. But there was nothing weak about her. She was happiest when she could help relieve you of any part of your own burden. She was rarely one to try and solve your problems. But oh how she could listen!

She would often be surprised when a total stranger would open up to her and share some struggle they were having. But to those of us who knew her, it made perfect sense. Strangers seemed to sense that she was someone that they could trust. Her openness would never betray that trust. You could tell her anything and if you asked her not to tell anyone, you could rely on her keeping it to herself. Not once in my entire life did she ever betray my trust. Even once her battle with dementia began…she continued to be the best secret keeper I have ever met, never forgetting what she shouldn’t share.

It’s not that she was without fault. She would be the first to tell you she wasn’t perfect. But this photograph captures all of her best traits. When I look at it, I am reminded of her warmth and generosity. I see a kind and good person whom it was safe to be yourself with.

All these things….so much love…captured in a single photograph.

living and growing, remembering


If you could go back to one 24 hour period in time, when would you choose and why would you choose it?

I woke up one morning thinking about this.

The first thing that came to mind was people that I’ve lost. If I could choose just one day to go back to, would I use the 24 hours to be with them?

Both of my parents are gone. Of course I would jump at the chance to be able to sit with either of my parents, even if just for a few minutes. Just being with them would cause my heart to swell.

I imagine just wanting to express to them how much I love them. Perhaps there was something I had wished I had expressed to them while they were alive? If there was, I would share that with them. But when I think about doing that, I imagine the conversation, and I know that any thoughts I shared now, thoughts that may have remained unspoken while they were alive – would be met now with a smile from them, and that they would respond by saying, “I know”. I firmly believe that they are both in heaven, and in that place, they have full knowledge of my heart for them. So although my heart misses them, I realized that a chance to have a 24 hour ‘birds eye view’ of our relationship, and a chance to remember it more vividly is not what I long for most.

So which 24 hours would I choose and who would it be with?

The thought I kept coming back to was time with my kids and my husband. Without any doubt, I would go back to a day when they were all very young and I would choose a day where we were all together.

Within the span of eight years, I had five children and two miscarriages. In those eight years I spent more time pregnant than not. If I think of it in months, I was pregnant 50 out of 96 months! Those first years were wonderful but they were also exhausting! I don’t remember as much from those days as clearly and deeply as I wish I could.

So I would like to go back to that season and pick just a normal average day. I would like to see that day through the eyes of present-day me.

Everyone tells young parents to ‘enjoy this time… it goes by so quick’! But when you are severely sleep deprived, survival is really the name of the game. You absolutely enjoy the moments and are filled with wonder and awe and appreciation for your beautiful children but you are doing it at a deficit more often than not.

So I would love to go back and just revel in them. To revel in us. I think I would enjoy them in a new way – even the squabbles. I would love to see my younger self and my husband’s younger self interacting with them. I have a feeling I would be surprised by what I saw.

As I was imagining going back in time though, a funny thing happened. I realized that I don’t actually need to. Even though I can’t remember those days in the detail that I wish I could. Even though sleep deprivation, pregnancy, raising babies, toddlers and kids, all took a toll on my memory, I discovered I did remember what mattered. I discovered that I am able to clearly and deeply see that those days were good because they were filled with love. And love is the most important part of ‘us’. It’s the part that I will never forget.