Do you ever get that feeling, when you’re looking at one of your parents, when you just love them so much that you fear you can’t hold it all, and surely something inside you will explode from the beauty and glee and gratitude and fear? I felt that way earlier as I watched my mom look through photos of her own mother, who passed away on Sunday morning. (I have a funny relationship with that term, “passed away,” but I use it deliberately here because “died” has too much finality.)
Life sometimes feels like a series of tangents. Sentences that you start with the intention of finishing, and then they’re forgotten halfway through. As we flipped through crumbling old albums, laughing at the perms and the oversize eyeglasses, we remembered an old favorite dress, or a long since broken toy. The sound of a voice you haven’t heard in fifteen years speaks again, preserved in the mind’s mysterious channels. You remember the warm scent of Belgian waffles still crisp from the iron, and the pure pleasure of dipping a spoon into a half-frozen glass of milk.
You can feel the scrape of the rough plaid basement carpet on your feet again, and the panicked joy of racing your cousins up the stairs, or around the yard in search of Easter eggs. You remember hours around a nicked up old kitchen table playing Uno, Skip-Bo, Racko, or Euchre. Or sneaking into the kitchen after Grandma was asleep, using up all her vanilla extract in uniformly unsuccessful cooking experiments but never getting into trouble for it. You remember riding in the back of a car that always smelled like Trident gum, and listening to talk radio.
These memories are but a tiny sliver of a life that began in the hills of Virginia and traveled so many unexpected paths, including the one she is surely on now. Religion can be a touchy topic, and my own beliefs have certainly changed and grown along with me, but I truly believe that her husband and daughter greeted my Grandma in Heaven with a hug and a hearty “Welcome home.”