Some moments in life take you by surprise. There are no preparations grand enough to brace your heart. The moment I held my first born fresh and squishy and slimy... I had heard what it would feel like, but there was no way to really know until I experienced it. The moment I first experienced God's love... I had heard people talk about it, but I didn't know how deep it really was until I found myself swimming in it and dripping with its possibility.
Yesterday, I went to see my mom, continuing her recovery at home from a procedure to drain the right pleural space. She went home last Thursday, and I had not seen her since. The kids and I were planning a visit last Saturday, but David's unexpected bout with strep foiled our plans. She is doing well, but she's tired. Surgery takes a lot of the average person, so I can only imagine how tired her body and mind must be. We had hoped to go visit my grandparents at the nursing home, but I don't think she had it in her yesterday. I don't remember how it all went down, but somehow, we ended up at her kitchen table with the contents of her jewelry box spread out.
It was one of those moments.
My mom doesn't have a lot of fancy stuff. She's had the same wedding band and engagement ring since they married in 1966. There are no large diamonds or rare stones. But there are a few things that I remember adoring in my childhood. She has this faux pearl tie necklace; literally, the faux pearls are strung in the shape of a neck tie, and it clasps at the back like a necklace. My aunt gave it to my mom, and she passed away in a car accident when I was only two years old. The piece has always been in my mom's jewelry box, though I have never seen her wear it. But to me, it represents my aunt's sassy style I've heard about my whole life and the relationship between two sisters. And the strange looking item was one of those things I would want once my mom is gone. No one else would understand what it meant, and I am not even sure anyone else would even want it.
There are other things I want. My mother's anniversary band. It's not extravagant and heavy laden with over sized diamonds, but I remember the day I went with my dad to help him pick it out. And there's the opal ring I picked out for him to give her for her birthday one year. And the opal pendant I got her when I traded in my diamond from my first fiasco of a marriage. And there's this enamel pendant with a butterfly on it she wore all the time when I was little. And a gold dipped leaf. And a pearl pendant she got at an arts and crafts festival where you bought an oyster and they shucked right in front of you and made a pendant from the pearl inside.
You see, my moment yesterday was so full of other little moments from my whole life. All these memories came flooding in. All these feelings. All these little tiny pieces of who she was and who she is now. Memories of the days when I never considered what it would feel like to have it all spread before me on a kitchen table with thoughts and wishes for what would go to whom. Moments from the past when cancer was something they talked about on the news. Moments when my mom was invincible and untouchable. The moments when I didn't realize I had something I needed to prepare for.
Sometimes we get lost in these moments. I think I did for a little while yesterday. I got caught up trying to unknot two gold chains, to free them from one another. We talked about the pieces of jewelry in front of us as my fingers worked to undo this tight knot in the fragile chains. Another memory of my mother's hands doing the same thing during the sermon on a random Sunday at church. I can't say why she brought the knotted chain to church, but she did. And I remember sitting atop a kelley green church pew, feet not touching the floor beneath, watching her hands work out the mess of gold. There I sat, working out a mess of my own, patiently, determined. Like a puzzle, I had to work it out.
Sometimes in these moments, I stop and think, How did we get here? How on earth is that I am sitting at a table with my 65 year old mother making decisions about what jewelry I will have once she's gone? How did we get from the arts and crafts festival where she found the pearl in the oyster to this moment at her kitchen table? How can we go back? I wish we could, sometimes... I wish we could.
And yet still, there are more moments to come. More to come. More to do and feel and experience. More life with her still. And I move forward wanting so desperately to stay in the moment of now. Wanting to enjoy what I have instead of trying to figure out how we got to this place. Living in the moment, not in the past or future.