Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A life, as told in pictures

Monday night, my husband and I had my sister come over to watch the boys. The reason? One of our closest friend's grandmother had passed away.

Normally, I am this family's official representative at funerals. John, squeamish about the whole business of death and funerals, will stay with the kids.

But these are our closest friends. I have known D since I was thirteen years old.   We went to junior high together.  We went to high school together and managed to hang out during breaks from college.  D met M at college.  They moved down here and we become inseparable. They came to our wedding, we were part of their wedding party two years later. I found out I was pregnant with Matthew the day before M's first baby shower. I baptized M two and a half years later. Our kids consider themselves family. Because we are.

D has lost all four of his grandparents within the last four years. His mother, whose mother died, is an only child. She bore the responsibility of caring for her aging and sickly parents alone. She has now buried them.

So, Monday night, we drove in the bitter cold and went to sit with our friends. To hold their hands. To hug and whisper small words of comfort. To help lighten the burden of mourning. Again.

As the priest quietly said Mass, I held John's hand. I looked down and saw how much are hands have changed as they lay intertwined. How much they have stayed the same. I wondered what life has in store for us, how we will handle all the unknowns that lay before us.

After the funeral Mass, we made our way to see D's family, especially his mother, to offer our condolences. We noticed that they had made a display of pictures. Pictures that chronicled the life that had now passed from this one. A young woman. A bride next to her uniformed groom. A mother with her daughter. The first picture of the day they arrived to the United States to live out the American dream.

In viewing those pictures, I recognized some of the events, chuckled at how young we all looked, smiled at good times that are now memories. The life of this eighty four year old woman, reduced to photographs gleaned from a lifetime of memories. Of the happiest moments shared with her family, captured for all time.

I thought of all the other moments.  The ones we carry imprinted on our hearts.  The countless other moments that have no image other than the one deep within our souls. The ones we carry and browse through in the dark moments of sorrow.

It got me thinking.

How will our children display our lives when we pass? What conversations will come about as they glance at a picture of their father and I, captured in a moment of happiness? What will they remember of their own childhood? What stories will be told?

What kind of mother will they remember?

The week has been a blur. I have been short-tempered, tired, anxious. It has been too cold. The mornings have been hard. I haven't been able to run. I have been able to shake the creeping anxiousness.

Too many sad anniversaries are coming up. My aunt has been gone for a year. My grandfather has been gone for twenty two. Our dog has been gone for four years. My sister in law's mother passed on my sister in law's birthday, the very next day.

And yet, within that sadness, we will celebrate Susan's birthday. And our anniversary next week. And Christmas ten days later.

And there will be more pictures to chronicle this life together. As a family. As individuals.

To remember. To revisit. To comfort.


  1. I sometimes wonder how my kids will remember me, too. The thought kind of makes me afraid--what if they remember the worst of me, not the best?

  2. About five years ago, the wife of a good friend of ours was killed in an accident. When we went to the calling hours at her parents' house after the funeral, they had decorated their dining room with pictures of their daughter. I was incredibly moved by this display of their memories.

    I'm sorry that your days have been filled with more dark than light lately. I hope the gains start to outweigh the losses very soon.

  3. The display of photographs is so inspiring. A reminder to focus on life. Just like this post - a reminder of what kind of legacy we're leaving for our children. It's so hard to consider that during the day. Especially on a cold, winter day when the kids are home sick and bored and fighting and all I want to do is hide from them. Thank you for sharing this, Maria. You always make me think.


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