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My nephew and niece, Lane and Emma, stayed the night with us a few weekends ago.
The next morning, the three of us were out to visit the Halloween store and to go to some friends’ house to decorate pumpkins.
They ask me such adorably precocious questions sometimes when it’s just us. I never know what they might think of, ask or say.
For instance, when we pulled up to my friends’ house, Emma said, “Well, this is a pretty good-looking house.”
She’s 9, going on 10.
While we were in the car that Saturday morning, one of them — I don’t actually remember which one — asked me one of those surprising questions.
“What was the best day of your life?”
Who is the interviewer here? I thought to myself with amusement.
“Oh, well, the day I married your Uncle Matt,” I said.
“What was the second-best day of your life?”
It was starting to sound a lot like one of those precocious conversations I had with my parents growing up.
“Probably the days you guys were born,” I said.
Third-best day?
“The day I was born,” I said, which they thought was funny.
After a little silence — I could practically hear the gears turning — Emma asked: “What was your worst day?”
I had to take a moment. I knew this question was coming, and I knew the answer, too. I felt they probably already knew the answer as well, but they wanted to hear it.
I steadied my voice as much as I could. I was driving, after all, and I didn’t want to upset them.
“The day Gee died,” I finally said.
The next silence may have been the most expressive silence I’ve ever experienced, or maybe I’m just projecting onto them. After a little while, a small, sweet voice said, “Mine, too.” That’s my Little Ems.
They couldn’t remember how Gee, my mom, and how Gammaw, Cynda’s mom, died.
“Gee’s lungs weren’t strong,” I said. “It wasn’t her fault — there was nothing that could be done. It was a disease.”
This helped them remember how Gammaw had died, that she had passed peacefully in her sleep, with her sweet dog beside her. Then they discussed how that dog recently died, too.
The topic was certainly sad, but being resilient little kids, they looked on the brighter side.
“I don’t think I’ve had my happiest day yet,” Emma said.
“You will,” I told her, “on your wedding day.”
“My happiest day was when I hit that grand slam,” Lane said.
Those two. They keep us going.

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My parents celebrated 40 years of marriage on Aug. 1, 2009.

Though I thought they should go on a romantic date – just the two of them – they insisted they would be delighted if I went with them to dinner.

The day before, as a small gift, I gave Mom a manicure and pedicure. I made it as elaborate as I possibly could so it would be as much like a salon experience as possible. I massaged her hands, feet, arms and legs, exfoliated her skin, pushed back her cuticles and even put a special foot and leg mask on her after soaking her feet for a while (I did the same for her hands with another mask). Finally, I buffed and polished her nails. I had purchased a pink polish specially for the occasion that I knew she would like.

Mom was terribly ticklish on her feet and did a lot of yelping when I exfoliated them. She would howl when I pushed back her cuticles.

This gave me the giggles, of course, which made her amusingly indignant. It took us probably twice as long to get through this process than it would have because we were having so much fun.

She said her hands and feet felt so soft and looked so nice.

That wasn’t the first time I polished her nails for her, and it probably wasn’t the last. But I remember it so well that I think of it every time I polish my own nails or get a manicure or pedicure at a salon.

She was not really awake for her 42nd anniversary and she did not live to see her 60th birthday. I so wish we’d had more time, that there could have been more manicures and pedicures for special occasions, that I could have kept giggling uncontrollably with her for many more years.

*****

The sadness of losing someone so precious is always with me, but I have mostly gotten used to it. However, there are times when something slips through, something taps into the deep place where agony lives.

I try not to think about her last day, in particular, because it opens up something truly terrible and painful that I cannot control.

But it happened last night, that her last expression popped into my consciousness. And I want you to know that while you may never witness someone die, you will lose someone precious. So love like crazy and express it openly, because you will never regret loving. You will never regret loving someone deeply and being patient with them and forgiving them and being humbly thankful that you have them.

Matt (my husband) is on a fishing trip today with his dad.
He provides so much support for me, emotionally and psychologically, that I get very depressed when he is away.
I hate to admit it, because I don’t want him to feel guilty for going and doing fun things or important things like weekends of class in Memphis.
I tried really hard to keep myself from falling into a depressed state – I watched a couple episodes of Conan, I watched approximately 1.2 billion videos on Vine, I played Robot Unicorn Attack 2…and then the iPad died.
The coffee I made is really weak. (I’m out of practice. Matt usually makes it.) The Pandora station I picked is not helping. (Is it the “Yesterday” by the Beatles station or something?)
My gaze wanders to the pencil drawing of my mom by Lindsey. And the tears come. Next to the drawing are my mom’s ashes.
Sometimes I wish I could have raised her, to give her something back for what she did for me, being who she was – so funny and kind and warm and talented. She had a very hard childhood. Her mother suffered from bipolar disorder. She told me she never remembered her mom telling her she loved her or even hugging her.
So I wish I could have raised that beautiful little girl who would become the most amazing woman and my hero taken too soon from my life. Maybe some day I will raise my own little Della. And if my daughter is anything like her, well, that will be the kind of pride that could comfort me in my grave.
God in heaven hears me crying. I miss you, Mama.

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