Jamie and I got engaged when I was 28 years old. I remember flying into Alabama for my 10-year reunion that year in July. Mom picked me up at the airport. She stared at the steering wheel and focused on getting through Montgomery. I thought, "Her only daughter just got engaged and she hasn't asked about my ring. And why is she lost in a place that she's driven through her entire life." It didn't register that she might be sick. She was only 49 years old.
Over the past 15 years, I've watched my sweet Mama fold into herself like a house of cards. First, it was her personality. Then her empathy. Then her focus on anything other than herself. As a young adult, I didn't understand. I puzzled at what had happened to my sweet Mom that always gave of herself. The Mom that put everyone above herself. The woman that shared the free time she had to help her family and others.
In the recesses of my memory, I see her full of spunk. Full of a love that defied boundaries. I remember her tracking me down as I walked down our street at three-years-old. I'd left to find my brother, Derek, who'd started his first day of first grade and I was convinced that I could find him and bring him home. I remember her patience. Her understanding. Her love.
Her frontal temporal dementia stole her from us too young. This week, I've heard stories of her and what an amazing woman she was. How she refused to reject her morals to please her boss. How she held steady to her beliefs in the face of controversy. If she'd been able to stay with us longer, I know she would've continue to blaze trails. Speak her mind.
When Daddy and I planned her service this week, he wanted me to read something I'd written about her. In looking through things, I realized that everything I've written has been a snapshot. So I wrote a new piece. I thought about the one constant that threaded through her life. Even in the final stages of her disease. And that was her spirit. At the request of people at her service, I'm putting her poem below. She was truly a spark that even in the end stages of her dementia when her body lay still, you could see in her eyes:
Born into this world a spark.
Not a tiny, new flicker of light,
but an explosion of love.
A piece of Heaven carried to Earth,
in the heart of a child.
A childhood filled with barefoot summers,
and peppermint kisses from MawMaw.
Nehi sodas and bike rides down dirt roads.
A simple life.
An innocent life.
Her Daddy's shop out back.
The sweet smell of his pipe floating to where she sits in a tree.
Evoking home and safety.
A decade later, on a warm day,
she sees him.
Young, handsome, smiling.
His kind spirit shines in his eyes.
Months later, they become one.
Then three. Then four. Then five.
Through all of this,
the spark grows brighter.
It infects her husband,
radiates onto her children.
Her opinions are never silenced.
Her spirit tested but never broken.
Her faith illuminated in her ways.
Her love unwavering.
Daughter, wife, sister, mother, friend.
All of these while only one.
And the spark grows stronger.
The loss of a father young.
The loss of a sister soon after.
A son almost taken from her.
The other lost completely.
In all of this, she remains true.
True to herself.
True to her family.
True to her friends.
True to her God.
And even when her body betrayed her,
and her mind sought to destroy itself,
her disease stealing memories.
Pieces of her.
The spark does not go out.
For years, her smile, her laugher, her joy,
shines in her eyes.
Long after she could speak of it.
A glance into her eyes reveals the love lying deep within her.
Beyond the reach of time and disease.
What appears on the outside as an abyss,
an unreachable place,
is an illusion.
The spark, veiled only in its last moments,
As her last breath leaves,
so does the spark.
The explosion of love
It returns to Heaven on the soul of an angel.
To be missed here.
But never forgotten.