"To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die." – Thomas Campbell from Hallowed Ground
The weekend following my 28th birthday was the last evening I spent with you before you slipped away. You had invited me over for a home-cooked dinner and the requisite birthday cake, although we didn't bother with candles that year. Admittedly, I don't recall what we ate, but I do remember sitting around the table together, enjoying the meal. After we finished eating, Sarah, Marianna and I giggled as we took silly photos of ourselves making poses like the girls in "Charlie's Angels."
We laughed and smiled and had fun together as a family; that is the vision of you that I hold in my mind, not the shell of a person that lingered here on Earth just a little longer thereafter.
After you were gone I cried but not much. I looked for answers but found painfully few. I silently drowned in the darkness that flooded over me. Grief made me feel hollow and numb, and for a time I shuttered my heart, keeping out even those closest to me. Losing you was the most difficult thing ever, and there were times that it was hard to see through to when there would be good times, happy times again, though I knew they were there waiting, shrouded in the mist of an uncertain future.
While you taught me countless lessons while you were here with me, the biggest lesson was one that I learned through your death. The clichéd yet sobering truth hit me that life is too short, too unpredictable to not take a few chances, to change even when it means changing everything. The some-day-I-might-get-to-it mentality no longer seemed like a viable option.
Losing you gave me the insight to recognize my dissatisfaction with certain aspects of my life and the courage to do something about it. After all, was I going to let inertia decide the course of my life, or was I going to take charge of my own destiny?
* * * * *
When I was applying to colleges, I recall that you didn't want me to go to a school out of state because you feared I would settle down somewhere far away after I graduated. When I wound up going to Drexel – just 40 minutes from home – you still had the occasional grumble. Admittedly, sometimes I do wonder, She didn't want me to leave Pennsylvania…what would she think of me living in a different hemisphere?!
In general, you weren't a terribly adventurous person. You once told me that you admired the fact that I am so outgoing and willing to take a bit of a risk. Although we were quite alike in many ways, you recognized that trait in me as one of the great differences that set us apart. Starting over in a new place has been a challenge, but I feel confident that you would be proud of the way I am handling all of these changes, even if it's something you wouldn't have chosen for me or couldn't have envisioned doing yourself.
I wish you could have met Daniel, to see how much he loves me, the way he smiles when he looks at me and I at him. You would have loved Daniel's family, and you would instantly recognize them for the good people that they are. Knowing that I am in good hands, you would feel at ease with me living so far from everyone else that matters in my life.
Three years later I can say that the darkness has been cast out and the shutters opened wide. There are smiles and love and laughter here, just like that last night. Just like you would have wanted.
Que descanses en paz, Mami.