One of the loved ones that passed away was my young cousin. It was a shock to get the phone call that this 22 year old who, in my memories is frozen in time as a 3 year old boy, had passed away. Over the next few days, even as I got news of another death, memories of him growing up flooded my mind.
He was an adorable little boy. Just downright adorable. He also liked to pretend he was a girl. He was constantly, at 3 & 4, telling me, "Just petend I'm a goil! Otay?" He loved his nails painted & going to the mall to pick out filly pink dresses.
One particular day is a special memory for my Mom & me. We had gone to pick him up from his Mom & went to the mall. I don't remember why we went there, but I was 14 & I remember heading to a store that I liked. He was arguing with me that he really was a girl. Finally he walked ahead of me a few steps, turned around, & stopped. With his hands on his hips, looking up at me, he said, "Just petend I'm a goil, otay?!" My Mom likes to tell me how red my face was just as a couple cute guys, who had been walking directly behind us, laughed at the cute little boy insisting he was a girl. I don't embarrass easily, but he managed to make it happen in that moment.
One of my favorite memories of my little cousin was when he was to be the ring bearer for his Mom's wedding. He didn't want to be the ring bearer; he wanted to be the flower boy. So, the flower boy he was. He didn't want to walk down the aisle alone, so I walked with him. He was so adorable walking down that aisle, looking up at me every once in a while.
Having 4 funerals in one week has left me with a lot of emotions & thoughts to process. Watching friends bury loved ones & saying goodbye to my own loved ones has made me come to face to face, once again, with how you truly do not know what tomorrow will bring. After a death you always hear things like, "life is short, appreciate what you have" because it's true. It's not just something to say when you lack other words in moments of grieving.
About a month ago I was at work when Amazing Grace came in. She was with some friends & when I was leaving I kissed her goodbye & said "I love you" just like I do every time my children or I are leaving. A coworker said, "I do the same thing with my girls, no matter where we are. I always kiss them & say 'I love you'." I said, "If something ever happens, I want that to be the last thing they hear from me." She said it's the same reason she does it.
Amazing Grace doesn't get embarrassed by the display of affection in public, but 2 of my kids would be. For those 2, we have a code word to replace it. It means the same thing & I do it for the same reasons. Even if it's a code word, the last thing they will hear from me is "I love you." If there is too much distance between us for words to be heard, we wave 'I love you' in sign language to each other.
You can't say it too much.
We have no promises in life. But if you're reading this, you have this moment to call, write a letter to, text, email, or snapchat someone you are close to & simply say, "I love you." No one can hear it too much or too often. And imagine how wonderful they'll feel when they open a message that simply says, "I love you."
I've been thinking lately about how with everything going on in life, going about our daily jobs, running kids around, sticking to that tight schedule to avoid chaos, & worrying about all that we have to worry about, it's the small, simple things that can get overlooked. Small, simple things like a love note, "just because" surprises, making the spouse's favorite meal, baking cookies with the kids, or surprising someone with the perfect cup of coffee just so they don't have to make it themselves. Studying Love Languages so that we make sure we are showing love in the way the other person will perceive it best. Giving love without any conditions or strings attached. The little ways to show you love someone don't take a lot of extra time for you but they mean a whole lot to the other person.
I've been thinking about how we can get so busy doing our thing that when we think about something that a loved one would really like, we can end up putting it off. We might think, "I'll have to remember to do that later." Next thing you know, it's 7 days later & you still haven't done it. None of that other stuff is nearly as important as making sure those around you know they're loved. None of it. Yet we still let that other stuff take the top priority spot when it really doesn't belong there.
All this grief has made me see my blessings with new eyes & truly appreciate what I have in life. I am surrounded by people who love me & whom I love. I am again glad I made the decision, months ago, to let go of the negative people in my life, because I am seeing even more right now that life is too short to let the drama of others affect me. I am glad I am no longer wasting what precious time life has preset for me, the amount of which I do not know, on people who thrive on drama & try to bring me down to their miserable world.
I have a beautiful little family right here that supports each other & knows what love is. Watching my kids loving each other by doing sweet things without a second thought, things they don't realize are a big deal to their sibling, shows me what a great bunch of kids I'm raising. Such little things that have a huge impact such as asking each other what is wrong & doing things to cheer the other up. Or buying their sibling something they know the other will love with their own hard earned money "just because". Or little surprises like letting them play with their special doll for no reason other than because it would make the other happy. Or when there is a conflict in schedules where I have the heart wrenching task of deciding which kids' event I attend, & one of the kids says, "Mom, go to his/her [whatever event] because it will mean a lot to him/her for you to be there. I would love for you to see mine, but I really want you to go to his/hers because it will make him/her so happy." Those types of daily interactions show me what awesome Future Adults I'm raising & the life long bonds they've formed with their siblings & I'm ever so grateful for that.
I have friends & family that support me & would be here in a heartbeat if I needed them. I know this because it's happened. When your friends drop everything to come hold you up during an emergency when you can't possibly stand on your own, to jump out of their car & run straight for you to give you a hug & whisper, "It'll be okay. We'll get through this", or constantly call you during that emergency just so you know they are with you despite the physical distance, you never forget it. I'm grateful for those people. They know who they are. They don't realize how much those little-to-them but huge-to-me actions mean & that makes them even more special, because they don't do it to look good. And they know I am here for them & will drop everything to be with them no matter what time of day or night it is. When they are crying from a broken heart because of some jackass, they know they can call me & not hear "I told you so" or "What were you thinking would happen?" Or when they are exhausted at 10 at night because the last 7 hours were spent combing through mountains of hair with lice & they are literally in tears because of the exhaustion & they're not even halfway done, they know I'll be in the car on my way to their house before I even know why they're crying. Or when their little girl cuts her chin open & they can't handle the sight of blood, they know I'll be there at the hospital to hold both their hands through the stitches.
During the emotional last few weeks, I've been thinking a lot about all of the people that are always there for me & know that I will always be here for them. I am very blessed to have these friends, to know unconditional love from them. And I'm very blessed to be able to give it right back to them.
I've had a lot on my mind lately--life, death, friendships, family relations, the most important things I've taught my kids, what love means, ways to show love, how you know you're loved, how differently everyone perceives love, priorities, joy, sadness..
Just like the day she was born into my hands & opened her eyes for the first time to see me, I will be the first to say Happy Birthday, baby girl, Mommy loves you.