Our mother was the story keeper of the family. If you ever wanted to know who did what, or who married whom, or where someone lived or went to college, Mom knew. And it wasn’t just her own family tree that she tended, she knew the stories in my father’s family, too. The love stories, the life stories, she knew them all.
I mourned so much about the loss of my mother when she died, but I mourned most deeply the loss of her voice, her stories. We didn’t have time to say goodbye. Yes, she was unwell and on dialysis, but she was living, she was not dying, at least not in my mind. Then one morning she didn’t wake up. The doctors tried to save her, for far too long, but only because daddy could not let go. We were all heartbroken.
This past September, more than 10 years later, daddy died too, joining his beloved in heaven. Daddy’s death was the opposite of mom’s, we all knew it was coming, the cancer was unstoppable. It was the summer of goodbye and not a surprise. In fact, a few years ago I told my sister that I had a sense in my soul that it would be that way, long and drawn out.
Both parents gone, we are now tasked with sifting through their home, discovering the life and love story they built together over nearly 70 years, starting as high school sweethearts. Daddy didn’t want much touched after mom died, he liked having her essence around. Truth be told, we did, too. We took care of her clothes and some personal things, but her desk and everything else remained untouched.
This week, feeling a bit like Alice in Wonderland, we started opening drawers, and envelopes. Pictures, newspaper articles, cards and letters, magazine clippings, piece by piece and drawer by drawer we stepped into their lives in a way we never had before. It was wonderful seeing their faces smile back at us from the Kodak images over the years. Many memories and moments forgotten to time, tucked away in a drawer instead of a photo album.
Ever the romantics, I expected to find nearly every Valentine or Anniversary card our parents had exchanged over the years. To my joy and unexpected pleasure we found something else as well, we found her voice. Pages of writings, letters and stories, some in her hand, some typed. All kept hidden away, God allowing us to discover them now when our hearts are open, ready to receive the love they hold and remember with joy, not sorrow. One of the most precious was a letter mom wrote in her beautiful penmanship to my sister and me, from an airplane as she flew to Florida with her mother to attend her grandfather’s funeral. We were too little to attend, but mom wrote us a love letter flying through the sky. Reading it now I can hear her voice in my head, I can feel the love she had for us, and I know without doubt that she and daddy are together, smiling in heaven guiding our journey of discovery.