My mother loved books. All kinds of books. Today, our basement is filled with her favorites. Biographies on John F. Kennedy. Art History books. Books about the Oriental Art of Tea. Classics such as Tolstoy, Joyce and Fitzgerald, of which she had her own personal love affair. And one special book, “The Sacred White Elephant”, tucked away in a certain corner, where sometimes I go and sit and flip through the pages. I’m not sure where her love of these creatures came from, maybe years of reading me the Babar books or maybe just her dream of visiting Africa, but she could on forever about how in some cultures they were revered as symbols of power and luck. I do know, that while she would read me the Babar books, she would often begin crying when Babar’s mother was killed by the hunter. Sometimes she would take a few seconds, looking off into the distance, and then she would begin reading again.
Now, I’m left with these books, souvenirs of her former thoughts. Not only was she obsessed with books, but she would dog ear, highlight and write notes in every corner of her texts, making the books her own. I, on the other hand, am so careful while reading, that my books often don’t look read even after days or weeks of toting around my current book.
My mother had several small, meditation books, often read by members of 12-step programs. One of her favorites was “Night Light” by Amy Dean, which is a book of Nighttime meditations. It sat next to her bed, even long after she had left for the hospital, never to return. Last night, I was flipping through it’s pages when I came to yesterday’s meditation and there, in orange marker, were several highlighted passages. I love reading her highlighted lines because it gives me insight into exactly what my mother found important within her readings.
“You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away” Job 11:16. We have fewer pains now. That may not be comfortable, so we invent new pain or dredge up the sludge of the past. As ugly as it may be, it’s still familiar. Tonight, we don’t have to look back. We don’t have to fell misery or pain because it’s familiar. We don’t have to drag out that wallet and look at the images of unhappy times again. Tonight we can leave those spaces in our wallets empty, ready to be filled with new moments to remember.
Wow! I definitely needed to hear that. And as usual, when I need to hear something, if I’m open to the voices around, I hear exactly what I need.
And then I remembered a quote my good friend Kate has traced sketched on the wall above her television. “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”
And I’m reminded that life if constantly full of lessons, sometimes joyful, yet often painful. And probably, if it doesn’t hurt or you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t learning. You aren’t growing. And I want the moments that take my breath away.
And I feel so absolutely blessed that I have so many of those with my mother. And tonight, I can take a few pictures out of my wallet, and begin to replace them with new ones. And in the very back, I’ll tuck away a picture of Babar and his mother. I want to be reminded just a little bit. Because we’re on borrowed time as it is…