When I was nine or so I had a most terrible dream that my mom had died. I woke up with wet cheeks from all the crying I did in my sleep and I was still crying. It was a cloudy morning in late December and the sky was one giant droopy eyelid of sadness. The state of despair was chased by some familiar noise coming from the kitchen and the unmistakable smell of coffee. My mom was still there and I was the happiest upon discovering that but a part of me was still rolled up in a sad ball under the covers crying over something that was lost forever. The innocence of not thinking that people can and will at some point disappear from my life. The knowledge of the inevitable was a most painful yet unavoidable discovery. I got out of bed promising I’ll never upset my mom again and I spent the entire day tailing behind her, looking at her, feeling her smell and looking at her hands, which I always thought were so beautiful. I was also consumed with the guilt of having had such a horrible dream which I never told my mom about.
Many years later my mom passed away, ever so quietly like she just stepped out for a bit. My painful childhood dream stared me in the face and this time there was no bittersweet realization that it was just a dream. I could make no more promises that I’ll never upset her again or that I’ll buy her flowers or spend time with her doing the things she loved. The thought of having postponed some of those things for future times was one of the hardest to bear. I learned so much from my mom during the many years she was around and then I learned so much after she left. I learned that I have today to make people I love feel loved and special. I learned that tomorrow is often times too late. If I care I will say it or do it. Today. There’s never been a better time. Because it’s the only one we really have, making good use of it to do the things that matter for the people who matter makes sense.
I don’t believe in gifts to say, “You are so precious to me” but I believe in being thoughtful. I believe in not holding back when it comes to making someone’s world brighter. As for the regret that comes from not doing some of the things I wanted to do with and for my mom, it’s there and it hurts. But through that I’ve learned to not postpone and wait for a better time to make others happy. We can never say we’ve done all we could do or wanted to for those we love, there are limitations of various kinds, life is like that. But then again, the thing that is most precious, the gift of love and unconditional acceptance of the ones we love, that one has no limitations. When all the memories of lost opportunities will be forgotten that one gift will stand out and prove to be the most important. It was Maya Angelou who said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Somehow my mom knew that.