Photographs and Memories
Tornadoes, insomnia and grief can lead to important revelations--and strange dreams.
Unable to sleep and sitting on the couch with my laptop late Sunday night, I scrolled through countless social media pages.
“Thinking about you, #JoplinMO,” read one tweet.
“While the world didn’t end for ‘Believers’ many people’s worlds did end in Joplin tonight,” a local shared on Facebook, “That could easily have been Maryland Heights.”
I clicked the laptop shut and closed my eyes. "The world didn’t end like that guy said it would," I thought. "But still, anyone could go anytime." Post-tornado images of Maryland Heights and Joplin weighed heavily on my mind.
My 5-year-old, who has a habit of waking in the night, shuffled in, snuggled next to me and covered both of us with his blanket. His rhythmic breathing sounded like ocean waves washing up against me and rushing back out. It was hypnotic.
I stroked his hair and studied his peaceful expression. The Garth Brooks song "If Tomorrow Never Comes” played in my head as I drifted to sleep.
My mother greeted me as I floated up on a cloud toward her. “Manda, is that you?” She was wearing her grey fleece housecoat and holding two cups of coffee. She offered me one.
“Yeah, it’s me,” I said, taking the cup with both hands. “I’ve missed you, Mom.”
“Me, too. But I see you every day.” She gestured toward a flat-screen TV in the sky.
In slow motion on the massive screen were my three children, playing outside. My 9-year-old was pushing the baby in her swing, and my son was going down the slide.
I woke as my little guy, in deep, drooly slumber, slid out of my arms and off the couch. I caught him just before he face-planted onto the carpet.
He hugged me tight as I carried him to bed. It was 5 a.m. and the autobrew coffee had started percolating.
After tucking him in and checking on the other children, I sat down with a cup of Folgers and opened my laptop once more, this time to scan our digital photo albums. My mom looked so vibrant, so full of life.
I wondered what she’d done during her final day on Earth. She obviously didn’t know her time had come, because she died unexpectedly of a heart attack in her sleep. She was only 56.
It led me to question what I’d do if I knew I had only one day left of my life. Ride roller coasters with my family? Lounge on a beach next to my husband while the children built sand castles?
Every scenario included my kids, and yet, I have found myself squandering my time with them, almost resenting them sometimes for needing me so much.
I must take that extra 10 minutes to read my son a bedtime book, sing those favorite songs to the baby even when I’m tired of repeating "Itsy Bitsy Spider," and let my 9-year-old practice braiding my hair even if it takes forever and kind of hurts.
Because—dramatic as it may sound—tomorrow may never come. And if it doesn’t, I hope their last memory of me is that I was a great mom.