Si tu n’étais pas là

My friend’s mom passed away recently. She was a beautiful lady, a ray of sunshine for all who knew her. I’m having a difficult time coming to terms with this, for some reason, mostly because it seems like she was so young, had so much left to give. Instead of being sad, though, I wanted to do something different. I want to share who she was to me, how she touched my life. Some people ask me sometimes how I am who I am, and part of it is because of what she taught me when I was younger.

Dear Mom,

It’s been awhile since we’ve talked, but I can still remember your laugh, your smile, and so many of the things you’ve taught me. I remember being scared to come to your house at first, because I didn’t know if you’d like me. I remember the dogs, the laughing as they barked at me, jumped on me, their paws frantically scratching on the wood and tile. There were hugs, smiles; never was there judgement. I remember countless nights spent on your couch, watching movies. Sometimes you’d wash the dishes or you’d be on the computer, but you’d always be close by. Laundry was a given. I remember trying to cook on your stove. Sancocho, boiled chicken, ginger tea when we were sick. You always hugged me, brought me into your heart. Christmas in Grayslake with your crazy presents, laughing until my sides hurt and I needed an inhaler to keep my lungs open but never wanted one because who cares when it feels so good? The memories are too many, it seems like I can never remember anything until it hurts…but again…who cares when it feels this good? Graham died, and Rachel cried so much, but you were gentle, I know. You loved him. You loved all your kids, those with two legs and with four. You loved your Rupi-bon, your Buddy, your little girls; I feel so lucky to have been your Paulywog. Years passed, mom, and you never stopped caring, never stopped smiling, never stopped trying to calm the dogs down when I walked through the door, still nervous because everyone there meant so much to me. You taught me how to peel an orange (to which you could only remark, incredulously, “You suck” in that way that only you could say it that made me feel so warm), how to make dulce de leche, to care about the simple things. High school dances, pictures in front of the fireplace. You cared for me so much, and I don’t even know why. You were excited when I came, excited for me to be there. Why? I never understood it, but it didn’t matter. You were always there. I passed by your house a million times, back and forth from school, from martial arts, from becoming a better me. The stable. Oh man, the stable. You put me on a horse there, laughed at me as I rode because I was so awkward. Just once, but that was all I needed. Maybe riding wasn’t my thing, but you loved me just the same. Years, mom, years. So long. And I miss you now. I hadn’t seen you in a while, and now I won’t, but I can still hear your voice, the squeals and laughter, I can hear it all so clearly. I can remember your tiny office where you did your work. God when will the memories stop? I hope never. Even if it hurts just a little bit for the rest of my life, I’ll love it, because who cares when it feels this good? You daughter, a beautiful, radiant soul. What can I say about her? She lives with your love, your beauty. I hope you know that when I see her, I see you too. I see all the things you wanted for me, all the things you want for the the world. She tries so hard and yet lives with your grace effortlessly. You did good, mom. You created something beautiful and gave the world a gift. I can’t hold you anymore, so I hope that when I hold her, you feel it too. I hope you feel the love you gave me. I hope that when you look out from the eyes of the horses and dogs and people you’ve loved, you see a world made more beautiful, more peaceful, more whole because they’re paying it forward. I’ll never stop missing you, but I’ll always hear your voice and remember that I’m your Paulywog, and I’ll take another step forward. Thank you, mom. I love you.