In the space of a breath

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Life changes in the space of a breath when we lose someone we love. Suddenly everything becomes more precious, our perspective changes and we remember that in the grand scheme of things, our lives are indeed short.

The older I get, the more I understand that each moment is a gift and the time we have with the people we love is something to treasure. Of course, in the day-to-day rush of life, it is easy to forget that change is inevitable and we all face saying goodbyes at some point.

This past weekend I said farewell to my mother-in-law, the woman that for all these years I called “Mom.” In fact, the title mother-in-law does not really describe what she was to me. She was a best friend and in many ways as close as a mother. She called me, her other daughter-in-law, her granddaughters and great granddaughters her “girls.” She loved her husband and her sons, but enjoyed having some female energy as part of her closest family and we loved being her girls.

I could write pages about all the things she did for me, the way she opened her heart to my children when I married her son, how she helped raise the child that came into our lives because of that marriage. And, there are not words to describe how she held me in her arms when we lost a baby.

I could talk about the things she loved to do and how she gave her love freely to friends and family, but that is for those of us who knew and hold her memory in our hearts. I realize it is difficult for someone who did not know her to relate to our memories.

What we all can relate to is the space left when someone close to us is no longer present in our lives. How the loss hits us at the oddest moments and, especially in the first days after their passing, seems unreal.

Since early last Thursday morning, I’ve given a lot of thought to the lessons Mom taught me with her life and with her passing from this life. From her I learned about acceptance and about having a heart that is open and welcoming to everyone it encounters. I learned about having courage in the face of huge challenges.

And I learned that sometimes love is about letting go and being grateful when at last someone’s suffering is over.

Most of all as I thought about the wonderful times I spent with her, I realized Mom taught me about joy and joy is what she wants her family and friends to continue to have even if she is not here in this physical world.

I know the best way to honor the memory of this truly amazing woman is to live every day to the fullest, to enjoy the spring flowers she loved so much, to hug each other every chance we get just like she did. A quote I read expresses the most important lesson knowing and now losing Madonna Blackmon taught me about what makes up a life and about how to live one that is fulfilling.

“Be an appreciator of the seemingly small things in life: a smile, a kind word, a beautiful flower, a few hours of unstructured time, a laughing child, for it is the small things that become the warp and weft of the fabric of your life.” Lucy McDonald.

And, I think Mom would add to that, never miss an opportunity to say “I love you” because life changes quickly — in the space of a breath.